Legal Win Affirms Right to Representation

Arbitrator’s Ruling Upholds Your Weingarten Rights

One of the most fundamental rights for union members is the right to union representation in a meeting with management if the employee had a reasonable belief that the meeting might result in discipline. Known as Weingarten rights, this protection is open to anyone covered by a contract, regardless of whether they’re a member of the union.

Weingarten rights originated from a Supreme Court case in the 1970s, but in a recent case here in New Hampshire, an independent arbitrator upheld the principles of that original decision and highlighted a very important point: always ask for union representation.

In the case at hand, the employee asked for union representation for a meeting with management, but was denied. The union filed a grievance, as the contract specifically spells out Weingarten rights, and although it took a year, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 ultimately prevailed.

“This decision is important because the right to representation is the most basic right,” said SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla. “It’s a protection against management, for whatever reason, trying to railroad an employee and circumvent other protections of the contract.”

The result of this case, much like a recent decision by the state Personnel Appeals Board, affirms a long-standing union right that’s spelled out in the contract. And just like that previous decision — which affirmed the ruling in a case known as Boulay —  this one will have implications for all SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members.

“Our legal department now has a binding decision that it can point to that says that the employer who denies union representation in a case such as this does so at its own peril,” Gulla said. “In other words, Weingarten is alive and well in New Hampshire.”

Having a contract is a good thing, but if no one defends the contract, it loses value. That’s why it’s not only essential that employees assert their rights under the contract, but that the union fights back when those rights are violated.

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