Know Your Rights At Work!

Charlie Cash

March 16, 2023

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One of the basic rights you have in the Postal Service is the right to meet with a steward if your contractual rights have been violated. You have the right to representation by a steward in any meeting that could lead to discipline, and the right to meet with a steward to file a grievance.

I recently saw a letter given to a member informing them of an upcoming investigative interview that could potentially lead to discipline. The letter informed them of their right to a steward. However, the letter stated it was the employee’s obligation to contact their steward to be present at the interview.

I spoke to leaders in various parts of the country and this seems to be a recurring issue. There may be many members who think this is the rule. This is not the rule! It is management’s responsibility to contact and arrange for your steward to be present in one of these meetings when you request it!

I sometimes forget that what I take as common knowledge is not known by everyone we represent. The Postal Service workforce has seen an influx of tens of thousands of new employees. We all need a refresher and reminder of our rights occasionally.

Every APWU-represented employee needs to remember their Weingarten Rights, which are the rights to request a representative. Management does not have to tell you that you have Weingarten rights. You have to know and invoke them.

It is important to always have a steward present in any meeting that could lead to discipline. Your steward is your witness, and can advise you on how to answer questions, prevent badgering, help clarify questions and answers, and they can meet with you privately prior to the meeting. Your steward is not a “silent witness” but rather a full participant.

Always remember to say these words when management calls you in for a meeting:

“If this meeting can result in me being disciplined in any way, I request that my union representative be provided and be present. I will not answer any questions until my union representative is provided.”

Repeat this until your steward is provided. If they say you need to find your own steward, the meeting cannot continue and the contract has been violated.

The Postal Service requires that a steward ask for permission to be released from work duties in order to preform union duties. How can any employee go find their own steward when the employee would need permission to leave the work area to find a steward or make a call to a steward? It is ridiculous to think that a member has to get a steward on their own since they have no authority to release a steward from work to perform union duties. Only management can do that.

It is vital that you ask management for a steward when you need representation for either an investigative interview, to meet with you to see if you have a grievance, or to file a grievance. If you go looking on your own, you could face additional discipline for being out of a work area or not working. The steward could also be at risk if they were not on official steward time as well.

Asking management to arrange for a meeting is a requirement under the contract. Asking management protects you, protects the union, and puts the burden squarely on management. These meetings are to be “on-the clock”— not before work, after work, or on breaks. You must insist on this and stand up for your rights!

Thanks to Chuck Camp, President, Philadelphia BMC Local, for the article's inspiration. ■


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