Employees’ Right to Union Representation
Union representation gives workers a right that most workers in America do not have. It’s called “Weingarten Rights” and it’s your ability to request a Union Representative in any investigatory meeting that may lead to discipline! The purpose of this right is to protect workers by making disciplinary meetings FAIR. 1000’s of union workers jobs are saved every year because of this right.
If you are a union member, you have a right to have union representation at any interview or meeting that could lead to disciplinary action against you. The Supreme Court case of National Labor Relations Board (N.L.R.B) v. Weingarten, decided in 1975, established this basic entitlement and the procedures for when and how union reps may participate in interviews. Collectively, these rules are referred to as Weingarten rights.
When Weingarten Applies
An employee who reasonably believes that an investigatory interview could lead to discipline is entitled to ask for union representation. An investigatory interview is a meeting with management at which the employee will be questioned or asked to explain his or her conduct, and which could lead to disciplinary action against the employee.
The employer is not obligated to inform employees of their Weingarten rights or to ask whether an employee would like a union rep at a meeting or interview. The employee must affirmatively request union representation.
Management is not required to inform the employee of his/her Weingarten rights; it is the employees responsibility to know and request.
Once you’ve asked for the union representative, any attempt by management to continue asking questions before a representative gets there is an unfair labor practice . If supervisors pressure you by telling you that “you’re only making things worse for yourself” by asking for a union representative, that’s against the law . So be sure to:
- Request the presence of a Union representative .
- Ask if you are a suspect in a criminal matter.
- Do not consent to a search of person or property. Ask to see a search warrant.
- Do not waive any rights, including the right to remain silent.
- Do not sign a waiver-of-rights form, admit or deny any allegations, or make any written or oral statement unless an attorney and/or Union representative is personally present.
These are not complete guidelines—always consult with a union representative and/or attorney.
How a Union Representative can help
Employers will often assert that the only role of a union representative in an investigatory interview is to observe the discussion. The Supreme Court, however, clearly acknowledges a representative’s right to assist and counsel workers during the interview. The Supreme Court has also ruled that during an investigatory interview management must inform the union representative of the subject of the interrogation. The representative must also be allowed to speak privately with the employee before the interview.
During the questioning, the Union representative can interrupt to clarify a question or to object to confusing or intimidating tactics. While the interview is in progress the representative cannot tell the employee what to say but he may advise them on how to answer a question. If necessary, a representative may ask for a caucus to meet with the employee privately to provide further advice. At the end of the interview the union representative can add information to support the employee’s case. One of the most vital functions of a Union steward is to prevent management from intimidating employees. Nowhere is this more important than in closed-door meetings when supervisors are often trained in interrogation techniques, attempt to coerce employees into confession to wrongdoing.
Should a supervisor request a meeting with you, read them your rights according to the law!
If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at the meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions.