Treatment of Stewards
Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), union stewards cannot be punished or discriminated against because of their union activity, such as filing grievances or speaking out on behalf of other workers. Among other things, an employer may not:
- Order a steward to perform extra or more difficult work
- Deny a steward pay opportunities
- Isolate a steward from other workers
- Deprive a steward of overtime
- Enforce rules more strictly against a steward
- Overly supervise a steward
- Unfairly gives Steward bad evaluation
When does your roll as a steward afford you the legal rights you are entitled to as a Union Steward? As a Steward can I always have those legal rights afforded to me in all that I do in the workplace?
A Steward “is properly subject to discipline for his actions as an employee, but is immune from discipline when acting clearly within the scope of his recognized union duties and responsibilities.”
As a rule of thumb immunity takes effect when its necessary for a Steward to investigate or adjust a grievance … or to investigate a specific problem to determine whether or not a grievance should be filed. This does not mean that you will be protected merely because you are venting a personal frustration. Arbitrators have cautioned that you should never represent yourself.
When Stewards are performing Union functions spelled out in the contract or acting in their official capacity, they are considered equals with management.The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules that Stewards must be free to challenge management statements without censorship. The NLRB described this relationship as: “a relationship between [employer] advocates on one side and union advocates on the other side, engaged as equal opposing parties in litigation.”
Stewards act in an official capacity when they:
- Investigate grievances
- Request information
- Present a grievance
- Act as a Weingarten representative
- Participate in a Labor/Management meeting
Stewards act in an individual or “employee” capacity when they discuss their own work assignments, performance or evaluation.
Rule of thumb for your protection: Inform the supervisor you are there to speak with them on behalf of the Union to discuss an issue or to investigate/adjust a grievance. Never represent yourself! Invoke your weingarten rights and request “your” Steward!