Your Weingarten Rights as a Union Member

Weingarten Rights

EMPLOYEE'S RIGHT TO UNION REPRESENTATION
(Link to video by reference only. No endorsement expressed or implied.)
•"If this discussion could in any way lead to me being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that a union delegate(s) be present at this meeting. Until my delegate arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."

The right of employees to have union representation at investigatory interviews was announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1975 case (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251, 88 LRRM 2689). These rights have become known as the Weingarten rights.

Employees have Weingarten rights only during investigatory interviews. An investigatory interview occurs when a supervisor questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his or her conduct.

If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or other adverse consequences may result from what he or she says, the employee has the right to request union representation. Management is not required to inform the employee of his/her Weingarten rights; it is the employees responsibility to know and request.

When the employee makes the request for a union representative to be present management has three options:

​(I)   it can stop questioning until the representative arrives.

(2)  it can call off the interview or,

(3)  it can tell the employee that it will call off the interview unless the employee voluntarily gives up his/her rights to a union representative (an option the employee should always refuse.)

Employers will often assert that the only role of a union representative in an investigatory interview is to observe the discussion. The Supreme Court, however, clearly acknowledges a representative’s right to assist and counsel workers during the interview.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that during an investigatory interview management must inform the union representative of the subject of the interrogation. The representative must also be allowed to speak privately with the employee before the interview. During the questioning, the representative can interrupt to clarify a question or to object to confusing or intimidating tactics.

While the interview is in progress the representative cannot tell the employee what to say but he may advise them on how to answer a question. At the end of the interview the union representative can add information to support the employee’s case.

On June 15, 2004, The National Labor Relations Board ruled by a 3-2 vote that employees who work in a nonunionized workplace are not entitled under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to have a coworker accompany them to an interview with their employer, even if the affected employee reasonably believes that the interview might result in discipline.

This decision effectively reversed the July 2000 decision of the Clinton Board that extended Weingarten Rights to nonunion employees.


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The Back Story:

J. Weingarten, Inc. operated a large chain of convenient stores, several of which allowed customers to purchase packaged meals. In June 1972, Ms. Leura Collins, a lunch-counter clerk at Store No. 98 in Houston, Texas, was called into the manager's office and interrogated by her manager and a loss prevention investigator employed by the store. Unknown to Ms. Collins, this investigator had been observing her for the past two days on the basis of a report that she was stealing from the register. Although this particular investigation uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing on Ms. Collins' part, another manager learned (from a coworker) that she "had purchased a [$2.98] box of chicken ... but had placed only $1.00 in the cash register."

During the interview, Ms. Collins, a member of Retail Clerks Local Union No. 455, requested several times that her steward or another union representative be present. When questioned about the chicken, Ms. Collins replied that she only took a dollar's worth, but was forced to use a large-size box since the small ones were not available. The investigator went to confirm this; upon his return he "told Collins that her explanation had checked out [and] that he was sorry if he had inconvenienced her, and that the matter was closed."

It was at this point that Ms. Collins finally broke down, exclaiming that the only thing the company ever gave her was a free lunch. Hearing this, the manager and the investigator were surprised, since Store No. 98 had no such policy. Once again Ms. Collins was interrogated, once again she requested representation and once again it was denied. The investigator then asked her to sign a statement that claimed she owed the company $160 for those "free" lunches. She refused. In Store No.2, where she had previously worked [1961-1970], free lunches were policy. It was later learned that other J. Weingarten employees, including the manager, took "free" lunches, since the company had no official policy that forbade it, a fact confirmed to the investigator who then ended the interview.

Upon leaving, Ms. Collins was asked by the manager "not to discuss the matter with anyone because he considered it a private matter between her and the company [and] of no concern to others." However, Ms. Collins reported this incident to her union and an unfair labor charge was filed.

Source: CWA Local 7200, Minneapolis, MN


http://www.gea-online.org/?page_id=292

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weingarten_Rights

http://clear.uhwo.hawaii.edu/wein.html

http://www.umass.edu/usa/weingarten.htm

http://youtu.be/ZBH10rjc5k8