Always Dispute Disciplinary Action.

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Listen to: “Always Dispute Disciplinary Action”

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.

Also, please help me spread UnionSpeak to a wider audience by following this blog by e-mail, liking my Facebook Page or following me on Twitter @UnionSpeak.  You can easily use the buttons in the right column to join me on your social network.  Thank you.

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Weingarten Rights

     We are still waiting for Blackstone to get over their embarrassment and sign the new contract.  They still have until the end of June to do it.  While we wait, this is a good time to learn that not all of our rights come from the contract.  We also have federally protected rights from the National Labor Relations Act(NLRA) and the Weingarten decision of 1975.

      At some point in our union careers we will eventually be called to the Human Resources department for some reason or another.  For some of us, the reason may be for disciplinary action against you or another union member.  This entry is to familiarize all union members on how to handle these situations and to remind all or you of your “RIGHTS” in such cases.  Some of you may never need to utilize this information but you may be in a position to help a co-worker.  I have broken up this topic into a series that will help in understanding what Weingarten Rights are and how they apply to all union workers. 

This series starts with a definition of your Weingarten Rights:

    The Weingarten right is a right derived from the Supreme Court’s 1975 Weingarten decision where the court recognized union employees’ rights to representation at investigatory interviews.  The right to have a delegate present during questioning by an employer.  This offers workers a competent witness supported by the union and a fair hearing of all arguments.  Weingarten ended arbitrary disciplinary actions.

The decline of labour unions in the US (VIDEO)

Hello UnionSpeak!

 To start this important year, I want to show everyone what the union is up against. We have no reliable allies in government. Unions are being attacked as greedy because we want to protect the gains we have made contract after contract.  We are the laborers and we do not ask for government handouts.  We just want another good contract that protects the jobs of members, health care for our families and a little nest egg for retirement.  See why we must protect our union!

I have borrowed this video from one of my favorite blogs.  “Always Question Authority”

Click to watch:

The decline of labour unions in the US (VIDEO).

Lincoln And Labor!

Educated Laborer

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”Abraham Lincoln.

7 score and 10 years ago, Abraham Lincoln presented a speech to Congress speaking about the Civil War.  In this speech, he briefly included what he believed was the role of labor in our country.  I find that this phrase is relevant to my last post and will be relevant to the upcoming contract negotiations in July.  Some often think that we owe our eternal gratitude to management for hiring us.  But please remember that it was your resume, your previous work and your interview that got you the job.  Management hired you because you qualified as someone who could build capital for them.  They could not make a profit if it wasn’t for every union member at our property and every other property.  We don’t owe management anything!

This being the case we as union members have not seen any consideration from management to show real appreciation for the labor we contribute to the success of the property.  Layoffs, frivolous write ups, reduced occupancy and slow cafeteria change are some examples of the opposite of what Abraham Lincoln believed that laborers, like us, deserve.   I know its difficult to want to do your best in these conditions, but my friends, never let anyone take away the pride you feel in yourself for the independent labor you perform everyday.  It is what separates you from them.

This post is inspired by the work done on a great wordpress blog,  “Always Question Authority”  I follow it everyday.  

Instructing union members how to stand up to bosses using federal laws and contractual tools.

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