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* What a steward should know
* Steward's responsibilities
* The grievance procedure
* Investigating grievances
* Past practice grievances
* Steward rights
* Just cause for discipline
* Arbitrations
* Breaking in a new boss
* Management rights

 

Breaking In a New Boss

Issues:  
  • You've got a new boss, bosses, or maybe an entirely new management team. He, she or they want to make the point that "things will be different." How different will they be? Here are some issues to consider involving both the legal aspects of what can Ė or can't Ė be changed, the reality of your workplace and what it will take to make sure respect for the members is preserved (or reestablished) ...


Breaking in a New Boss

The new boss will often try to "make an impression." Here are some thoughts on how to make sure a new boss learns how to act like a civilized human being.

Hereís a situation that can happen to any union local, sometimes more than once...

Corporate management appoints a new management team, or local management hires a new personnel manager, or the operation is sold to a new owner. In the public sector a new person is elected, or a department is privatized. Management announces that from now on things are going to be different, rules will be enforced, discipline will be handed out. New company policies or work rules are posted or handed out.

A steward files a grievance, management rejects it because it wasnít written properly, or a deadline was missed. The union committee cites past practice, management states they are new, and that only past practices that benefit the company will be recognized. Union members are mad and demand that the union take action. Even lower level management is complaining and tells the union that they better do something about the boss.

What causes this to happen? Often itís a new young boss trying to make an impression. Since many workplaces are non-union, odds are this person has never dealt with a union before. They donít understand how a unionized location operates. Itís up to the union to not only defend working conditions, but also "break in" new management. They may need to be taught how to act like civilized human beings. Respect for the members must be reestablished.

As with most situations, there are two aspects to consider, the legal issues and dealing with reality. How much can the union afford to let management get away with? When has management crossed the line, forcing union leaders to take a stand?

The unionís best weapon is itís members. The members control production quantity (a lot or a little) and quality (good or bad). They control the delivery of services. Services can be provided fast or slow, a lot of "red tape" can be involved. Often whatís needed is a method to remind the employer of the memberís power. It could take one or several reminders. Management can be slow learners, but eventually the message will get through and respect for the workers will be reestablished.

Ideas for Action

ē Discuss the situation with the members immediately. Hold meetings, either formal or informal (at lunch, in the parking lot, in a nearby restaurant).

ē Make sure a substantial majority of the members are on board and that they understand the problem. New management can be the best activator and organizer of union members.

ē Call a stewards meeting right away. Get the stewards on board. Hold a mini stewards class, if necessary. Make sure the stewards know their legal and contractual rights. Be sure they know the proper way to write and present a grievance. Make sure they understand the importance of meeting the contract time lines.

ē Donít skip steps in the grievance procedure, even if the supervisors claim they canít do anything to resolve the grievance. If union members are going to be made miserable by the new managementís tactics, lower level bosses need to be made just as miserable. Pressure must be put on them to help whip the new managers into line.

ē Work on management at every level. Try to determine if this attack is the policy of the employer, or the action of a new boss out to make an impression. We have more leverage if the problem is with the individual. If thatís the case, other levels of management may not be interested in going to war with the union. Try to use any division in management to the union's advantage. Remember, management will generally not publicly denounce one of their own, but if we can pit them against each other the union will gain bargaining leverage.

ē Donít expect to win this fight overnight. It will take time. Make sure the members and stewards know and understand this. Donít allow management to single out union officers or stewards for punishment. Advise people not to lose their temper or do something stupid. That could be playing into managementís hand. They may be looking for a union official to fire to scare everyone else.

ē File a lot of grievances ó they may have to be withdrawn later, but let the employer know that people arenít happy. Let management know you are willing to spend as much time as it takes sitting in grievance meetings. When possible, present group grievances. (Either file a lot of separate grievances, or have everybody sign one grievance). Have as many members as possible come to the grievance meeting to testify.

ē Work to rule when you can. Take time filling out paper work and always work in an extremely safe manner. Everyone should ask their immediate supervisor a lot of job related questions. Remember, being a model employee takes time.

ē At some point the union may need to take the fight outside the immediate workplace. Petitions may need to be sent to corporate headquarters. Practice picket lines can be held (off hours), or call a press conference to inform the public if we provide services to them.

ē Figure out what the best resolution to this problem is. Itís rare that the employer will fire a boss because the union demands it. Most likely, someone different will handle the grievance procedure for a while, or the situation may improve over time. Leave management room to save face.