Outlined below is a draft of an e-mail message, flyer, posting, etc. that any union could use to remind the average unit employees how much more power union representatives have than employees, private attorneys, or even many managers.  Feel free to copy, improve on it, and use it in your own local to boost the union’s image and attract new members.  You can send it with the contract information for all the reps or have them individually send a version to the employees they represent.AN OPEN LETTER FROM YOUR UNION REPRESENTATIVES

Most employees have no idea of the special powers union reps have that other employees, even managers, do not. Here are a few you should know about that enable us to help our co-workers.

  • If you suspect others are getting incentive awards with the same (or even lower) appraisal score that you received, we can get the appraisal scores of everyone who received an award.  Union reps can get access to agency records to see whether it is distributing developmental training opportunities fairly, how final promotion decisions were reached, and even whether leave or overtime decisions were made equitably. If you want to know what “really” led to some workplace decision, come see your union rep. The labor law gives us the right to get information that you and even managers cannot get.
  • If a manager suddenly makes your life difficult by announcing that she wants you to change how you do the work, employees have no right to force her to pull back the change.  Union reps do.  If you see a manager making an unwise change that inconveniences employees, come see the union rep. We can legally stop, modify and even improve on management’s latest new ideas.  The average employee can only make suggestions and hope.
  • If one of your workplace rights outlined in law, regulation, contract or past practice is violated, you can file a grievance to complain.  But only the union can take that grievance to an outside arbitrator to get a legally binding order that management stop its improper behavior and compensate you for the harm it did to you.  In a few cases you might be able to hire a private attorney at the typical cost of thousands of dollars a day to help you, but the union can enforce the same workplace rights for free.
  • If a manager starts questioning you because she thinks you did something wrong, you cannot bring in someone to witness the accusations and demands for personal information, stop the meeting to get advice, nor hire a private attorney to speak for you. You can only invite a union rep to sit in with you, give you advice, ask questions on your behalf. and demand access to whatever evidence led the manager to call the meeting.  That is the law.
  • If you see something very wrong you can contact the press or Congress about it and hope that you qualify for whistleblower protections. Or you can ask the union to go to the press or Congress with the problem because they have more protections than a typical whistleblower and can leave your name out of it.
  • If you see a way to improve agency operations, you can make a suggestion and keep your fingers tightly crossed that some manager listens. A union rep can put your idea on the bargaining table, demand management explain why you are not right, and in some cases even ask an outside arbitrator to decide whether your idea should be implemented–and you rewarded.

Union reps do not have super powers, but the law gives us special powers to do things you cannot.  In addition, experience has given us special insights, relationships, and expertise you likely do not have.  Come see us if we can help you or one of your co-workers. We are here to support you and need your support.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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