KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
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1. Handout: Basic Democratic Rights of Rank and File Union Members
2. Weingarten Rights Explained
3. Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act
For the full text of the LMRDA, Click Here.
Below is a handout provided by The Association for Union Democracy.
You are protected by a federal law: The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.
Basic Democratic Rights of Rank and File Union Members
Union Democracy makes unions stronger. The key to union democracy is an educated and active membership. This summary describes your rights under a Federal Law: the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Several unions have printed this handout in their union newsletter, or posted it on union bulletin boards.
1. The Right to Equal Participation in Your Union You have the right as a member of the union to participate equally in union affairs. You have the right to:
attend and participate in union meetings,
vote by secret ballot in local union officer elections, and other important election rights,
equal access to union publications in election campaigns,
if voting on contracts is in your union constitution, you have the right to know what you are voting on,
due process if you are disciplined by the union.
NOTE: It is illegal for the union or the employer to retaliate against you, or threaten you, for exercising your rights under the LMRDA.
2. The Right to Essential Information As a union member, you have the right to certain types of information:
Copies of annual financial reports, including the LM-2 forms, available from the Office of Labor Management Standards–OLMS,
Copies of union contracts and side agreements that affect your job,
Copies of the union constitution and bylaws.
NOTE: You are free to publish the information in the reports and documents described above.
3. The Right to Free Speech in Your Union. Your right to free speech in the union is very broad. You are free to:
criticize union policies, officers, staff, or candidates,
discuss union policies and issues,
write about, sing about, draw cartoons about union representatives,
complain, protest, demand and advocate.
NOTE: You can not be disciplined for free speech. However, if you advocate leaving the union, or changing unions, your speech may not be protected.
4. The Right to Free Assembly Like your rights to free speech, your rights to organize with your coworkers to make changes in your union are very broad. You can:
organize a committee or a caucus,
meet without official union permission or participation,
write and distribute leaflets, newsletters, etc.
run candidates for office,
take collective action to influence the union (pickets, buttons, etc.).
NOTE: Be careful not to represent yourselves or your group as official union representatives if you are not.
Enforcing Your Legal Rights
Some parts of the LMRDA are enforced by the Department of Labor (Elections, Financial Reporting, Right to Information). Other rights you enforce through a lawsuit in Federal Court (free speech, free assembly, union discipline cases). Some rights can be enforced through State Court, also. You may be required to “exhaust internal union procedures” before taking your case to the Department of Labor or Federal Court. This means you must first file an internal union protest or complaint, according to the procedures in your union bylaws/constitution—even if you believe that this is a waste of time. If, after four months (three months for election complaints), the internal charges have not been resolved, or you want to challenge the result, you may take your complaint outside of the union. If you do not exhaust the internal procedures, the union can not discipline you, but the court or Department of Labor may dismiss your complaint.
Because the legal procedures are complex and have strict time limits, it is important to get advice. You may need a lawyer. Contact AUD:
Association for Union Democracy
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
From the website of the Association for Union Democracy. https://uniondemocracy.org". Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA; 718-564-1114
Check back here for more Documentation of Rights.
Weingarten rights guarantee an employee the right to Union representation during an investigatory interview. These rights, established by the Supreme Court, in 1975 in the case of J'. Weingarten Inc,, must be claimed by the employee. The supervisor has no obligation to inform an employee that s/he is entitled to Union representation.
An investigatory interview is one in which a Supervisor questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his/her conduct. If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or discharge may result from what s/he says, the employee has the right to request Union representation.
Examples of such an interview are:
- The interview is part of the employer's disciplinary procedure or is a component of the employer's procedure for determining whether discipline will be imposed.
- The purpose of the interview is to investigate an employee's performance where discipline, demotion or other adverse consequences to the employee's job status or working conditions are a possible result.
- The purpose of the interview is to elicit facts from the employee to support disciplinary action that is probable or that is being considered, or to obtain admissions of misconduct or other evidence to support a disciplinary decision already made.
- The employee is required to explain his/her conduct, or defend it during the interview, or is compelled to answer questions or give evidence.
When an investigatory interview occurs, the following rules apply:
Rule 1 - The employee must make a clear request for Union representation before or during the interview. The employee can't be punished for making this request.
Rule 2 - After the employee makes the request, the supervisor has 3 options. S/he must either:
Rule 3 - If the supervisor denies the request and continues to ask questions, this is an unfair labor practice and the employee has a right to refuse to answer. The employee cannot be disciplined for such refusal but is required to sit there until the supervisor terminates the interview. Leaving before this happens may constitute punishable insubordination.
- Grant the request and delay the interview until the Union representative arrives and has a chance to consult privately with the employee: or
- Deny the request and end the interview immediately; or
- Give the employee a Choice of: 1)having the interview without representation or 2) ending the interview
Union Representative's Rights Under Weingarten
You are not required to merely be 'silent witness'. You have the right to:
- be informed by the supervisor of the subject matter of the interview
- take the employee aside for a private conference before questioning begins
- speak during the interview
- request that the supervisor clarify a question so that what is being asked is understood
- give employee advice on how to answer a question
- provide additional information to the supervisor at the end of the questioning.
You do not have the right to tell the employee not to answer nor, obviously, to give false answers. An employee can be disciplined for refusing to answer questions.
A standard statement to suggest to members is:
"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or discharged, I request that my Union representative be present at the meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions."
An employee has NO right to the presence of a Union representative where:
- The meeting is merely for the purpose of conveying work instructions, training, or communicating needed corrections in the employee's work techniques.
- The employee is assured by the employer prior to the interview that no discipline or employment consequences can result from the interview.
- The employer has reached a final decision to impose certain discipline on the employee prior to the interview, and the purpose of the interview is to inform the employee of the discipline or to impose it.
- Any conversation or discussion about the previously determined discipline which is initiated by the employee and without employer encouragement or instigation after the employee is informed of the action.
Even in the above four (4) circumstances, the employee can still ask for representation. Most employers will permit a representative to attend even when not required to.
Here is a copy of your rights under the National Labor Relations Act:
Page Last Updated: Nov 13, 2017 (12:59:50)