Call the Guild when concerns arise − at first hint of trouble
Your officers want to remind you of an important right you have under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1975 Weingarten Decision: Your right to have a union representative with you when management, or its representatives, question you about a matter that could lead to discipline or dismissal.
But you must assert that right!
This is not like the Miranda warnings you see on television where the case against someone gets thrown out if police fail to advise a suspect of the right to counsel. You must call for union representation since what you say — and how you behave in these meetings — CAN be used against you. You don’t get off just because the bosses don’t advise you of your right to have union representation. Management has no obligation to tell you that.
You also have the right to choose who your Guild representative will be. Management can’t pick your steward. Your supervisor must wait until your representative arrives before continuing with the meeting. If your manager refuses to stop the meeting, he or she is committing an unfair labor practice.
Guild officers and staff have saved many careers, including in several recent instances.
We’ve been able to keep things calm so the member doesn’t lose their temper and make themselves vulnerable to charges of insubordination, which can lead to dismissal.
We’ve been able to coach members not to answer questions until they were certain what was being asked. This kept confusion from leading to false charges against the member or others.
We’ve been able to investigate and learn things that cast our members’ actions in a much more accurate and favorable light.
Most importantly, we’ve been able to resolve conflicts — some of them career-threatening — in ways that have improved working conditions, both for the member directly involved and those who work with them.
The sooner we get involved, the more we can do to achieve a positive outcome. So assert your right to have a union representative with you before answering questions.
If you get called at home by management, you have the right to refrain from answering any questions until you consult with a union representative.
If you are already in a meeting with a supervisor and it starts feeling like an investigation that could possibly lead to discipline, you have the right to call the union.
Once you exercise your Weingarten rights, management has an obligation to do one of the following:
- Wait for the Guild representative to arrive and consult with you before continuing questioning,
- Refuse to allow a Guild representative to attend and end the meeting; or
- Give you the choice of
(a) voluntarily continuing the meeting without representation (which you should always refuse)
(b) ending the meeting.
Please don’t make the mistake that some have made and think you can handle things on your own. The bosses, as they have in the past, could lose their cool or intentionally use intimidation tactics and goad you into losing your temper. This often leads to charges of insubordination that severely weakens your position.
There are often two bosses in the room. You need a witness on your side to back up your version of what you said during the meeting.
We do not have the right or desire to disrupt legitimate investigations into wrongdoing. But we will work hard to assure that people are treated fairly and that decisions are based on evidence and not merely suspicious circumstances or the unsubstantiated word of hostile individuals.
We’ve lost several good officers and stewards recently. Let us know if you’re willing to be trained to take their places.
Your union local has the strongest paid staff it has had in years to help your volunteer officers and stewards. We offer many rewarding opportunities to make the papers where this local has members much better and fairer places to work.
President, The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia
TNG-CWA Local 38010, AFL-CIO, CLC