If the union could teach just one thing to its members, it would have to be about “Weingarten Rights”-the right of unionized workers to have a steward or someone else from the union present if the person is in a situation where he or she may be disciplined.

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 provides that an employee, upon request, has the right to union representation during an investigation conducted by management, where the employee being questioned reasonably believes that the investigation may result in discipline.

Many workers crumble in the face of questioning by their supervisor or a member of management. They get rattled and start explaining and making excuses and apologizing and often end up giving the employer ammunition to do whatever he or she wants. They often become like the suspects you see in cops shows on television: They ‘fess up to things that maybe never even happened or say things in such a way that they worsen the problem rather than talk their way out of it.

With few exceptions, workers within DFAS enjoy the legal right to have a steward or other union representative present if they find themselves in any situation with management-a conversation, a discussion, an interrogation-that could lead to disciplinary action. But unlike Miranda rights, which police are supposed to tell criminal suspects about (“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you…”), employers do not have to tell employees about their Weingarten Rights.

  • If called to a meeting with management, read the following or present this information to management when the meeting begins.
  • If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representation arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.

These are the basic guidelines covering the use of Weingarten:

  • *The employee must make a clear request for union representation before or during the interview. The worker cannot be punished for making such a request.
  • *The employer must either grant the request and delay questioning until the union person arrives; deny the  request, but end the interview at once or give the worker the choice of going ahead without representation or ending the interview immediately.
  • *An employer who denies the worker’s request for representation and continues to ask questions is committing an unfair labor practice (ULP). The worker can legally refuse to answer questions in such circumstances.
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