Something Happened at Work – What Can the Union Do to Help Me?

During your workday, you may have a problem with a client or your supervisor. You may be disciplined or fired. You may also have problems with your leave or paycheck. The union might be able to help you solve these problems.

Below are the steps you should take, and who will help you with your workplace problems.

First, you need to call or visit the union office.
The union does not get notices when an employee is disciplined or something has happened to you at work. We count on you to notify us when something is going on.  You can visit the Local 500 office anytime between 9-12pm and 1-5pm. However, our Contract Administration Representatives are often in grievance hearings or other meetings outside the office. When you call us at (301) 740-7100:

  • You will be put in rotation to the next available representative,
  • Receive a call back within 24-48 hours,
  • A Contract Administration Representative will have a discussion with you about your case and arrange a time to meet.

What is a Contract Administration Representative (CAR)?
The union has staff members whose job is entirely focused on investigating grievances and complaints for our members. They know your contract and labor law. They are trained to deal with helping you. While it can be tempting to call a Member Strength Organizer or other person you know in the union, Contract Administration Representatives are better equipped to deal with your individual problem.

What is rotation? Why do I have to wait for a call back?
CARs work with all members of the union. They are assigned calls in the order they come in the office.  If a CAR is not available when you call, you will be in the rotation and the next CAR in the rotation will call you back within 24 hours.  Union members are not able to request a certain representative, as they are often already assigned to other cases or working on behalf of another union member.  It is VERY Important: If you have an immediate need for a representative (such as an investigatory meeting for possible discipline), please let the receptionist know that you have a tight timeline.

Important: The union does not have a tracking system for calls into the office. You must leave a voice mail or a message with the receptionists in order to get a call back.



What happens next?

When you meet with a CAR, you should bring:

  • ALL documents relating to your case, whether or not you think they are important;
  • Your whole story. We ask that you think about everything that has happened before you talk with us so we can get a clear picture of what your situation is and provide the best support possible. We are here to help you, so please don’t hold anything back. We are on your side.

Please be on time for your meetings, bring paper and pen to take notes, write down questions or other information you need to find.

You shouldn’t bring:

  • Please don’t bring your spouse or a neighbor, co-worker, or friend. If there is a language barrier, disability or other reason you believe you need assistance, we will discuss this with you to ensure that your privacy and representation rights are protected.
  • Please don’t bring an outside attorney. If you would prefer your own attorney instead of representation from your Union, that is your decision, however, any request for your Union to interact with an outside attorney will first have to be evaluated by our Legal Counsel.  Also, outside attorneys are not familiar with our contract, and do not represent employees under the rules established by the contract.

Next Steps
The CAR will need to evaluate your case to see if it is a violation of the contract or labor law. Unfortunately, some problems may come from personality conflicts or differences of opinion.  The union contract may not fix these.  The union can try to assist you with those problems but we can only use the formal grievance process when your problem at work is directly related to a violation of the contract.  Often times a CAR will contact your employer on your behalf, and with your permission, attempt to resolve the issues, including those that are not contract violations.

The Contract Rep will discuss with you the next steps, which may include an investigation that will include talking to your coworkers and potentially your manager.

This sounds like a long process, and I’m not sure if it’s a contract violation, should I still call?
The contract reps are happy to answer questions, and you will not be automatically involved in any process just by calling. You can just ask a question or get a clarification. You will be able to make decisions about the grievance process as you go through the process. But the union cannot help you if you don’t tell us what is going on at your workplace.   We want to help you and to make sure you are treated fairly.

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