One of the most important services the Writers Guild provides to its members is the negotiation and enforcement of contracts with companies that employ our members. Over the years, the Guild has successfully fought for members’ increased creative rights and fair compensation. The Guild renegotiates new collective bargaining agreements and provides resources, including staff, to enforce the contract and fight against contract violations.
Union members have more rights and protections at work than non-union employees. But members must know what those rights are in order for them to identify violations. That is the only way members are able to benefit fully from union protection.
Basic Right To Representation
In a landmark case in 1975, the Supreme Court ruled that union employees have the right to request that a union representative be present during any meetings with management, which they reasonably believe may lead to discipline. These rights are commonly referred to as the Weingarten Rights.
Invoking Your Weingarten Rights
Union members have the right to union representation any time they believe that a discussion with a supervisor may lead to disciplinary action against them. In order to invoke Weingarten rights, an employee must clearly make this request to a supervisor. Weingarten rights do not automatically go into effect, nor is a supervisor required to advise employees of their rights.
Employees who do not ask for a Guild representative to attend a meeting may have waived their rights. If you do not invoke your Weingarten rights, any information you give your supervisor may be held against you.
The right to representation is one of the most important rights afforded to union members, and members should be prepared to exercise that right when necessary.
What to Say and When to Say It
Requesting union representation is the best thing to do in a difficult situation, even if you’re not sure where the topic of discussion is headed.
Employees may request Guild representation at any time before or during a meeting, including the point where a "friendly chat" turns to questions about their job performance. If the intent of the meeting is announced in advance, members should make the request before the meeting starts.
When invoking their Weingarten rights, employees should say, “I respectfully request union representation.”
What Happens Next
A union member may not be penalized in any way for requesting representation. After a request is made, management has three options. They can stop or postpone the meeting until the representative arrives; they can call off the interview; or they can tell the employee that they will call off the interview unless s/he voluntarily gives up the right to a union representative. Union members are advised never to agree to this.
If none of these things happens and you are not allowed to summon your Shop Steward or Guild representative or discontinue the meeting, continue with the meeting and then contact the WGAE immediately. Writers should contact Business Agent Geoff Betts at 212-767-7852.