The Right to a Witness.
Unions are started on the principle that all workers deserve fair treatment and respect. This includes making sure managers do not use disciplinary action to unfairly punish you and your coworkers.
If a supervisor pulls you into a room to talk, you’re pulled into a room to talk, and you think you might be disciplined, it can feel like your back’s against the wall.
But when you’re in a union, you’re never alone. You always have the right to call on representatives from your union or workplace to back you up in these situations. These are your Weingarten Rights, which get their name from a landmark court case with the same name.
In the Weingarten case, the Supreme Court ruled that union-represented workers have the right to union representation during all meetings or discussions with supervisors or managers that the worker reasonably believes might lead to discipline. These meetings or discussions include discussions on the work floor, in work areas, in offices, over the phone, and even outside the facility.
Why should I exercise my Weingarten Rights?
Shop stewards and union reps are trained in how to deal with disciplinary action, and their role in these scenarios is to act as both a witness and advisors. A union representation is there to:
- Require management to explain why the meeting was called
- Talk to you before and during the meeting about why you may be disciplined
- Hear everything that is said and request any clarifications
- Stop unfair questioning
- Take necessary breaks for one-on-one discussion
- and Provide real-time and private counsel
What happens if my request for a representative is denied?
If you request a union rep prior to or during your discussion, your employer HAS to allow it or you’re entitled to end the meeting. If they deny your request, you can walk out of the discussion, and it could be what’s called an “unfair labor practice”, and legal action can be taken.
It is also illegal for your employers to retaliate against you for choosing to have a union representative present.
How do I exercise my Weingarten Rights?
It’s pretty simple. All you have to do is ask! (It is important to note that if you do not tell your manager or supervisor you are requesting representation, you waive that right.)
To help make sure you feel prepared, we made this handy index card with exactly what to say should you need a rep!