Your Right to Union Representation
As a bargaining unit member, you have the right to request a union representative to be present and to represent you in an investigatory interview with the employer when you reasonably believe that the interview may lead to disciplinary action.
The Unites States Supreme Court in the case of NLRB v. Weingarten,
420 U.S. 251, established this right.
There are several important elements to this right:
First, an employee must request that a union representative be called into the meeting with management. In this capacity, the union representative is safeguarding not only the individual’s particular interests, but also the interests of the entire bargaining unit- to make certain that the employer does not initiate or continue a practice of imposing discipline unjustly.
Second, the employee being thus interviewed must have a reasonable belief that discipline will result from the investigatory meeting.
Third, the employee has the right to know the subject of the meeting and to consult with his/her union representative prior to the meeting; and is entitled to caucus with his/her steward during the meeting in order to seek the steward’s advice and counsel. The steward has the right to participate in the meeting, and not to be forced to sit silently as a passive witness.
Fourth, no such employee would necessarily have the right to demand the steward or other union representative of his/her impromptu choice (at that point during the interview when it becomes apparent to the employee that the “interview” is disciplinary in nature). That union representative would be designated by the bargaining agent (“The Union”).
Fifth, the employee would be well advised not to refuse any such interview, even if his/her request for union representation his denied by the employer’s representative (i.e., supervisor, foreman, etc.) Instead, the employee should be advised to attend the interview, but while in attendance, to repeatedly insist upon his/her right to have a union representative present throughout. If the employee’s persistence fails to persuade the management representative to accede to the employee’s request to have a union representative present at the interview, then the employee should refrain from answering any questions put to him/her during the interrogation and the union should file a grievance or an unfair labor practice (or both, depending upon your contract language and the collective bargaining law in your state).