What a steward
* Steward's responsibilities
* The grievance procedure
* Investigating grievances
* Past practice grievances
* Steward rights
* Just cause for discipline
* Breaking in a new boss
* Management rights
Breaking In a
You've got a new boss, bosses, or maybe an
entirely new management team. He, she or they
want to make the point that "things will be
different." How different will they be? Here are
some issues to consider involving both the legal
aspects of what can Ė or can't Ė be changed, the
reality of your workplace and what it will take
to make sure respect for the members is
preserved (or reestablished) ...
Breaking in a New Boss
The new boss will often
try to "make an impression." Here are some thoughts on how to
make sure a new boss learns how to act like a civilized human
Hereís a situation that can happen to any union local, sometimes
more than once...
Corporate management appoints a new management team, or local
management hires a new personnel manager, or the operation is
sold to a new owner. In the public sector a new person is
elected, or a department is privatized. Management announces
that from now on things are going to be different, rules will be
enforced, discipline will be handed out. New company policies or
work rules are posted or handed out.
steward files a grievance, management rejects it because it
wasnít written properly, or a deadline was missed. The union
committee cites past practice, management states they are new,
and that only past practices that benefit the company will be
recognized. Union members are mad and demand that the union take
action. Even lower level management is complaining and tells the
union that they better do something about the boss.
causes this to happen? Often itís a new young boss trying to
make an impression. Since many workplaces are non-union, odds
are this person has never dealt with a union before. They donít
understand how a unionized location operates. Itís up to the
union to not only defend working conditions, but also "break in"
new management. They may need to be taught how to act like
civilized human beings. Respect for the members must be
with most situations, there are two aspects to consider, the
legal issues and dealing with reality. How much can the union
afford to let management get away with? When has management
crossed the line, forcing union leaders to take a stand?
unionís best weapon is itís members. The members control
production quantity (a lot or a little) and quality (good or
bad). They control the delivery of services. Services can be
provided fast or slow, a lot of "red tape" can be involved.
Often whatís needed is a method to remind the employer of the
memberís power. It could take one or several reminders.
Management can be slow learners, but eventually the message will
get through and respect for the workers will be reestablished.
Ideas for Action
Discuss the situation with the
Hold meetings, either formal or informal (at lunch, in the
parking lot, in a nearby restaurant).
Make sure a substantial majority
of the members are on board
and that they understand the problem. New management can be the
best activator and organizer of union members.
Call a stewards meeting right
Get the stewards on board. Hold a mini stewards class, if
necessary. Make sure the stewards know their legal and
contractual rights. Be sure they know the proper way to write
and present a grievance. Make sure they understand the
importance of meeting the contract time lines.
Donít skip steps in the
even if the supervisors claim they canít do anything to resolve
the grievance. If union members are going to be made miserable
by the new managementís tactics, lower level bosses need to be
made just as miserable. Pressure must be put on them to help
whip the new managers into line.
Work on management at every
Try to determine if this attack is the policy of the employer,
or the action of a new boss out to make an impression. We have
more leverage if the problem is with the individual. If thatís
the case, other levels of management may not be interested in
going to war with the union. Try to use any division in
management to the union's advantage. Remember, management will
generally not publicly denounce one of their own, but if we can
pit them against each other the union will gain bargaining
Donít expect to win this fight
overnight. It will take time. Make sure the members and stewards
know and understand this.
Donít allow management to single out union officers or stewards
for punishment. Advise people not to lose their temper or do
something stupid. That could be playing into managementís hand.
They may be looking for a union official to fire to scare
File a lot of grievances
may have to be withdrawn later, but let the employer know that
people arenít happy. Let management know you are willing to
spend as much time as it takes sitting in grievance meetings.
When possible, present group grievances. (Either file a lot of
separate grievances, or have everybody sign one grievance). Have
as many members as possible come to the grievance meeting to
Work to rule when you can.
Take time filling out paper work and always work in an extremely
safe manner. Everyone should ask their immediate supervisor a
lot of job related questions. Remember, being a model employee
At some point the union may need
to take the fight outside the immediate workplace.
Petitions may need to be sent to corporate headquarters.
Practice picket lines can be held (off hours), or call a press
conference to inform the public if we provide services to them.
Figure out what the best
resolution to this problem is.
Itís rare that the employer will fire a boss because the union
demands it. Most likely, someone different will handle the
grievance procedure for a while, or the situation may improve
over time. Leave management room to save face.