what can i do if my union did not respond to my call after i was fierd

i called my union four days after i was termanated and the union rep did not contact me until it was too late. He then informed me that I had 7days to be represented and by the time he called back there was nothin he could do

1 answer  |  asked Nov 21, 2011 6:01 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (1)

Marilynn Mika Spencer
I am a California attorney and not eligible to give legal advice in any other state. The following comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange.

I’m sorry this happened to you. It’s obviously a bad situation. Most stewards will try their best to do the right thing, and to obtain justice. But because of the structure of unions, there are some union reps who are incompetent, just as there are attorneys and politicians who are incompetent. Many local labor unions are run by volunteers. Most union officers and representatives spend numerous hours of their own time conducting union business in the evenings and on the weekends.

Nearly all these elected and appointed officers started out as rank-and-file workers. They may be elected because of their work competence, seniority, intelligence, charm, good looks, big mouth, blustering, oratory skills, etc. – just like elected politicians. There is a range of skills and a range of experience among them. Most unions provide some training for their officers and stewards, but others do not have the resources to do so. The training provided varies widely.

With respect to shop stewards and other union representatives who protect the collective bargaining relationship, most of these are full-time employees of the employer, who do all of their union work on their own time, or in the lost-time situation mentioned above. The amount of loss-time may be limited by the collective bargaining agreement.

When a workplace has only one union representative, all kinds of things can get in the way. For example, the representative may be out of town, sick, or unavailable for any reason, so a deadline could easily be missed, like in your situation. Some unions have effective working relationships with the employer, and can sometimes get the employer to reconsider an employment decision even if the grievance deadline has passed. You might press your union representative to see if you can get any satisfaction in this way.

If you want to pursue a claim against your union, there is a six month time limit, called a statute of limitation, in which to do so. You can file an lawsuit in federal court or an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
But know that the standard for successful suits in such a case is very high. A union has to act in a way that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith in order to be liable for a screw-up; this is a standard far beyond negligence. These cases are very difficult to win.

If your termination was based on a statute, such as any of the laws prohibiting on-the-job discrimination, or protecting whistleblowers, then a private attorney can assist you. If you were fired because the employer was not satisfied with your work or conduct, it is unlikely there is any option other than your union.

Best wishes to you in this difficult and unfortunate situation.

* * * * *

Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all of the state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. 

posted by Marilynn Mika Spencer  |  Nov 25, 2011 02:35 AM [EST]

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