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Local 33 webmaster note:
Technically, these rights fall under the NLRA, not the RLA. But, as a practical
matter most CBAs with bargaining units covered under the RLA have Weingarten
rights built-in. We do in the CBA at NWA. So, the practical advice is still good
(you can cite the Art 13 and call this "Weingarten-like rights")
Link to the original case
Workers have an important right to on-the-spot representation in any
situation involving actual or potential disciplinary action. It's something
every shop representative and every AMFA member should know.
All union members (including local officers and shop representatives) can and
should make this request if they’re being questioned by management about
anything that could lead to disciplinary action. Management has no right to
For example; An AMFA member is asked to report to the supervisor’s office. The
supervisor asks a question that the member feels could lead to disciplinary
action. The AMFA member asks; “Could this meeting lead to discipline?” The
supervisor replies; “Maybe.” The member responds; “I want to see my shop
representative before answering!”
The Weingarten case
Why? Because of a 1975 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all
workers have the right to union representation when a supervisor or boss asks
for information that could be used as the basis for discipline. This decision
gave workers and unions specific rights called Weingarten Rights (from the name
of the case). All union members in your workplace should know about them.
A vital part of a shop representative’s job is to keep management from
intimidating workers, especially when a member of management is trying to get a
member to admit to wrongdoing. Weingarten Rights won’t help if members don’t
know about them, because management doesn’t have to tell them. If they answer
the questions, they’ve given up their right to representation.
From conversations to closed doors
Shop representatives should make sure members understand that if any discussion
with management, from a closed-door meeting to a conversation with a supervisor
on the job could lead to the possibility of discipline, they should ask
immediately for a shop representative or local officer. The request can be made
at any point.
Ideally, a member should say something like: "If this discussion could in any
way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working
conditions, I request that my shop representative (or a union officer) be
present. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions. This is
my legal right."
Anything close to this statement will do. Any further attempt by management to
ask questions is illegal until a shop representative arrives. If management
denies a request for union representation, this is an unfair labor practice and
the member may refuse to answer any questions.
Don't wait to act!
A shop representative may take action if they see a worker is in a meeting or
conversation with management where they are in danger of being disciplined. A
shop representative does not have to wait for the worker to ask.
In this situation the shop representative should check to see what the issue is
about. Then meet privately with the member for a couple of minutes. Talk with
them about questions that may be asked. Advise them to be careful that anything
they say could be used against them. Warn them not to volunteer any extra
information, to keep answers short, and to stay calm. Remind them they’re not
alone: the union is there to support them.
What shop representatives can do
During a meeting, shop representatives should:
- Take notes on what was said and who said it to help keep facts straight.
- Keep the member from being harassed or abused
- Ask the supervisor to clarify any questions the member may not understand
- Advise the worker how to answer questions
- Request a recess during the meeting if you need more time to talk
privately with the member.
- Request that the meeting continue another time if information is presented
that requires additional investigation or preparation.
Keep in mind
Shop representatives cannot negotiate over the subject of the meeting, and do
not have the right to tell workers not to answer a question or to give untrue
answers. Refusal to answer questions can be a reason for discipline.
If a worker’s shop representative is not available, another shop representative
or union officer can be asked to attend. Members also have the right to ask for
a particular union representative, if both are equally available.
If a worker is asked to provide information about another employee, he or she
also has the right to ask for a representative. Why? Because failing to answer could
lead to disciplinary action — and, therefore, the right to representation.
Management can have private conversations with members that will not lead to
discipline issuing a warning or other disciplinary action, for example. On the
other hand, workers should know that a casual conversation with a supervisor
that starts harmlessly (over work, for example), but begins to lead to the
possibility of trouble, can be stopped until a shop representative can be asked
to be present.