What is a union?
A union is an organization of workers who unite to protect their rights on the job. There are all kinds of unions. Some are parts of huge organizations with members across the United States while others are local and independent. A strong union keeps members informed, active and involved. A strong union encourages workers to protect their rights, negotiate contracts and resolve workplace problems. Remember that a union is as strong as its members.
Who are the representatives of the union?
Most unions have several representatives. The Steward is one of your co-workers who is in charge of handling problems and answering questions about the contract and the union. Unions have local officers who are workers elected by the other workers to be in charge of running the local union.
What is a contract?
A contract, or collective bargaining agreement, governs the relationship between the employer and the union. It is negotiated by the workers' union representatives and the boss. A contract gives workers rights they would not have without a contract; it also grants the boss certain powers to regulate the workers. If you want to help decide what is in the contract, tell your union representative your ideas or find out how to become part of the negotiating team.
Typical contract provisions
All contracts are different and you should check the provisions in your contract, but here are some of the clauses included in most contracts:
1) Just Cause: You cannot be fired or disciplined without just cause. The company must show that they had a reason to fire or discipline you.
2) Seniority: Most union workplaces have a seniority system. The amount of time you have on the job may determine your benefit levels. For example, the contract may state that if there are layoffs, the people who have been at work for the longest period of time must be laid off last and the people who have been at work for the shortest time must be laid off first. Different contracts have different types of seniority clauses.
3) Pay, Holidays, Sick Days, Benefits: The contract will set rates of pay for all workers and show which days are holidays and how many sick and vacation days people have. It will also provide for the employers payments to health and welfare and pension funds. If you have questions about what you are being paid, the answer should be in the contract.
4) Grievance Procedure: The grievance procedure is the way you challenge the company and enforce the contract. If your rights under the contract have been violated, you can ask your union to file a grievance against the company. The grievance procedure will not help you fight every unfair thing the employer does. It only helps enforce the rights that are in the contract, rights that you have by federal, state or local law, and rights that come from past practices of the company. Past practices are things the company has always done in the past but has stopped doing or failed to do in your particular case.
Right to representation in disciplinary meetings (Weingarten Rights)
According to U.S. law, most workers have the right to have a union representative present at any meeting or interview with management that they think may result in disciplinary action against them by their employer. If you think that you may be written up, fired, or disciplined in any other way as the result of an interview with a supervisor, you should ask that a union representative, such as a shop steward, be present. If the supervisor then refuses to let you have a representative present, you have the right to refuse to answer.
How can I support my union?
There are a number of things members can do to make the UGSOA Local 223 Union even stronger than it is today. Participating in your local union, sticking together, and educating potential members and the public about our union are simple, everyday ways we can support our union. Here are a few others:
- Attend local union meetings regularly. If you cannot attend meetings, talk to your shop steward or other members about what took place and try to make the next one.
- Stay informed. Keep up with current events and what's happening in your workplace. Visit your union web site to keep up with news that affects you and your union.
- Participate in union elections. Whether it's elections for officers, contract votes or local union business, your opinion counts and can make a difference.
- Get to know your steward, he or she is your primary contact with your union and can answer many of your questions or refer you to the appropriate resources.
- Get to know your local officers and trustees. Many local unions provide contact information and bios on their web sites.
- Review your local union bylaws. Each UGSOA local is autonomous and has its own set of rules and guidelines.
- Attend union rallies and events when you can. You may not be able to make them all, but standing together shows strength in numbers.
- Spread the word. If you hear about an issue that concerns you, tell your friends, relatives and coworkers and show them how to get involved. Educate others. Talk about what being a union means to you. Tell your friends, relatives and other workers you bump into about benefits of being a Teamster.