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Infamously known as a “write-up,” disciplinary action is used by management to control or more often overpower employees. In our case, union workers. I first want to say, that we have to be honest with ourselves. Like everyone else, union members knows right from wrong. For those of us who are delegates or shop stewards, we have to admit that we have a greater knowledge than most about union rules versus hotel rules. I fully understand that my role as a delegate means that every union member gets a fair defense for any disciplinary action given by management. But sometimes I know I’m fighting a losing battle when a member clearly disregards the rules. This however does not change the aim of this post. I want to UnionSpeak that all disciplinary actions should be disputed.
Like anything, disputing disciplinary actions takes practice. Unfortunately, management makes that practice readily available. I know because I have dealt with many, many write-ups since I became a delegate. Plus, I am no stranger to receiving disciplinary action. A lot of UnionSpeak is based on of my own experiences. But I am still here to tell the tale. Regardless of this, I make it my priority to prevent as many disciplinary actions as possible, both by counseling union members and reasoning with management when possible. It may not seem like it, all the time but it’s best to tell your own union members they’re messing up, rather than ignoring their risky behavior and having to deal with it later. The role of a delegate to me is more than waiting for disciplinary actions to occur. Management will always dislike you but you really know you’re doing a good job if your membership is pissed at you every once in a while. I’ve learned that it is the actions you managed to avoid that really counts.
The fact is, you will not be able to avoid them all. So when you are called to do your duty as a delegate, you have to consider one main fact. 90% of the write-ups you will dispute with management or with human resources will not be revoked. The fact is if the paperwork is filled out already, they do not want to reverse it. Mostly anything you say, will not change that outcome. Management considers its responsibility to make sure that there are disciplinary actions on file to keep control of the union worker. The union worker with a write-up will either straighten up or if they don’t, more disciplinary actions will be filed until they are able to fire the union worker. Either way, they win. As commented by Coffee Smeller in my last post, Negotiations Continue… , disciplinary actions do not go away for two years. Disciplinary actions sunset only if within those two years you had no further disciplinary actions. Any new disciplinary action, usually means two more years before your record can be cleared. The advantage belongs to management. This is exactly why, all disciplinary actions need to be disputed. If you cannot immediately get the write-up revoked then it is necessary to write a summary of why you think disciplinary action should be revoked. Your summary along with any evidence should be given to human resources to be attached to the write-up. This has become my number one tool in managing disciplinary actions. If things get worse, the business agent will be able to use this material to build a case in favor of the union member.
Please don’t misunderstand, every effort should be made to reverse write-ups as soon as they are given. I often find, however, that if I wait a day to think, I come across evidence or look at old disciplinary actions and think of ways to better the situation. You also want to give the union member some time to calm down so that they can explain their actions and build a better picture of the full situation. A good way of getting a write-up reversed is to look at the write-up itself. Often, management makes mistakes on the paperwork. By finding and pointing out these mistakes, sometimes it is possible to clear the union member in this case. This is the 10% of the write-ups I have been able to get reversed. Management comes and goes and new management tends to make mistakes that can give union members the advantage. If you are able to get a write-up reversed, make sure to get a copy of the reversal for your records. Instances like these can help you in future disciplinary actions and can help a business agent if the situation ever arises anew.
Another way to know that you are an effective delegate or shop steward is when management hands out disciplinary actions when the departments delegates are not there. Often I, hear of write-ups being given on my days off or when I have finished my shift. When I look at when the disciplinary incident has happened which will be on the write-up, I see that there was opportunity to get me involved. All members should know that any delegate can sit in on disciplinary actions and all delegates should know how to defend their union members. It does not need to necessarily be your own delegate. We all know management does this on purpose. However, you also need to know that disciplinary actions can be disputed at a later date. Anyone who receives disciplinary action should keep a copy and get it to their delegate as soon as possible. A delegate can then arrange a time to meet with human resources to discuss and try to reverse the write-up. Again, most likely the write-up will stand. I know that this sounds disappointing but we also know that we cannot call our business agents for a first offense. Business agents are called when discipline has evolved into being sent home, suspended, or anything pending termination. The rest is up to us to dispute in the best way we can by speaking to management and human resources. Rather than saying you tried your best, it is best to write a dispute of the write-up for future reference. If you’re not able to refer to past disciplinary actions, you will miss out on catching management contradicting themselves. Management hopes that you are forgetful. It is important to note that management receives training on how to “effectively” discipline their workers. To counter their training, we have to remember everything they do. Believe me, they will contradict themselves, and when they do, you will be able to prove it.
It is my UnionSpeak recommendation that all disciplinary actions be disputed by writing a summary, gathering evidence and interviewing the union member. Make sure that management and human resources keeps a copy in the file for future reference. Also, keep records for yourself that can help you with future disciplinary actions, possibly with different union members. It is also my strong recommendation, that those members who have disciplinary actions keep records of their own write-ups. By looking out for yourself it is possible to aid your delegate in your own defense. Remember that it’s your job that you are trying to maintain, so it is best to be involved rather than be at the mercy of others. Also remember, your Weingarten protection statement. Never speak to management without a delegate present. Management will always try to get you to admit wrongdoing. Do not give them that opportunity.
I would be happy to help anyone on methods of disputing a write-up. My contact info is in the “contact me” tab or comment on this post and I will answer any questions that I can.
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