Union Representatives’ Column Archive

The value of a contract

Have you ever been promised something by your manager or supervisor, only to have it fall through later?

It may be a promise to give you more hours, let you take time off, or give you a promotion or a raise.

There are plenty of times when, for one reason or another, people in charge don’t come through on a promise they made and you’re left trying to figure out how to adapt.

You don’t even have to have a bad manager for this to happen. Sometimes your boss just might not have had all the right information when she or he spoke to you, or perhaps the final say was above his or her pay grade. Some well-intentioned managers may even just not like saying no, even when they know they don’t have the authority to actually promise you something.

Whatever the reason, in the end it often feels like there’s not much you can do about it but hope for better luck next time.

You don’t need to rely on luck.

When it comes to your job, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been working there a while, you need to know you can count on a promise your boss makes to you.

Sometimes a boss will come through and make good, but that’s not always the case. That’s why you need to be sure to get it in writing. And that’s where a contract can help you.

A manager can make promises, but a contract is a commitment from your employer.

Your time and effort has value — act like it!

When companies do business with each other, they can’t just rely on promises. They put their agreements down in writing where they are legally binding commitments.

Instead of relying on awkward favors, a contract creates a way for two parties with different interests to work together.

A contract spells out all the agreements between you and your employer. This can include how much you get paid, your raises, your benefits, holiday/sick days, vacation days, leaves of absence, your pension, scheduling guarantees, health and safety standards, and more.

Unlike a company handbook, you have a say in what goes into it, and you can have the peace of mind of knowing it can’t be changed without your knowledge or input.

Contracts also help ease possible tensions between you and your managers by making it really clear what the agreed upon rules are, as well as what to do when they are violated. Your employer has a commitment to follow the language of the contract.

Confronting your manager one on one can end up feeling like a personal attack or criticism with someone you have to work with every day and maintain a good relationship with. In the end, many people just decide to let minor problems go rather than risk creating an uncomfortable situation or even just seeming like they aren’t a team player.

In the end, that isn’t a good way to get problems solved. With a written contract and union representation you have someone to call who isn’t your boss who can help you get the issue resolved.

Never forget that you’ve already earned it

When you have a strong contract protecting your rights as an employee and the commitments your employer makes, you can rest easy knowing exactly what you’re getting in exchange for your hard work. You work hard every day. When a promise is made to you, you deserve better than being expected to just take someone’s word for it.


Be on Your Best Behavior
On and off the clock, the decisions you make have consequences

As an employee and union member, you have a responsibility to be professional, courteous and civil. That responsibility applies to your behavior on and off the clock, as well as online and offline.

Even if you have clocked out for the day, your supervisor is still your supervisor. They don’t close their eyes or shut off their ears when you clock out. And if your employer sees anything you’ve posted to social media that’s questionable, you still could be suspended or terminated. What you think may be a joke in good taste could be held against you at your next job, too.

Use common sense. It’s OK to let loose and have fun, but a good rule for good behavior is to imagine telling your son, daughter or parents about your behavior and think about how they would react. If you think they might be offended, don’t do it.

The Internet never forgets

Social media like Facebook and Twitter never delete the things you post. You may have read in the news how comedian Kevin Hart recently lost his ability to host the Oscars because of homophobic tweets he posted a few years ago.

The consequences for what we post don’t have limits just because you didn’t get in trouble in the days and weeks after posting drunken pictures with your friends or co-workers.

The same applies to rants you post online. Just because you’re letting off some steam, it doesn’t mean you need to make those feelings public.

For example, if one of your co-workers threatened you to your face, you would — and should — communicate it to your manager. Your employer would protect you from the co-worker who threatened you.

A malicious rant on Twitter or Facebook is no different. If you threaten a co-worker online, your employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment for him or her, too.

Simply put, a perceived threat is a threat no matter how you slice it. You will be disciplined, and a threat that you thought was just “venting” could end up in termination.

If you’re going to post about your life online, please post wisely.


Negotiations Are Coming!
Here’s How You Can Do Your Part

Our Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons contract and our Stater Bros. contract are set to expire on March 3, 2019. We must start preparing now!

Please keep doing your part by staying engaged in the bargaining process.

Give us your input through our contract survey and stay informed by visiting our website (UFCW1428.org), our Facebook page or our union bulletin boards. Attend bargaining update meetings whenever possible.

Some employers have been known to spread misinformation and anti-union propaganda in an attempt to divide and weaken our ranks. Remember, only your union represents your interests and no one else’s. For the real story, trust only the information provided by your union. If you see this happening, don’t believe any of it and let your union representative know immediately!

Our union negotiators are determined to reach fair contracts with the employers that you will be proud to ratify. But to do this, they will need to have a united membership behind them.

Together, we can do it by standing together in solidarity!


Take Your Breaks — You’ve Earned Them!

As we heard President Mark Ramos say at our recent Stewards Conference, we are the one’s we’re waiting for. Consider this a starting point for standing up for yourselves and take your union breaks!

You work hard for your employer, and that’s why your union is proud to negotiate a strong package of wages and benefits to make it worthwhile.

One of those benefits is your right to take breaks at certain times of the day.

The contract between Local 1428 and your company entitles members to breaks during each work shift. This goes above and beyond the minimum rights that are established by state law.

We urge you to take advantage of these breaks! They give you a moment to rest and recharge your batteries. In addition, they allow you to focus properly when you’re back on the job, reducing the possibility of errors that could cost the employer money and, in the worst situations, lead to discipline or termination.

If you don’t take a break two to three times a week, you’re basically giving your employer at least 30 extra minutes of your time.

Breaks are easy to take for granted nowadays, but workers didn’t always have them. It wasn’t until unions began negotiating breaks into contracts that they became a common and accepted part of the work day.

Recently, however, Local 1428 has been receiving reports of employers failing to send members off to their breaks during work hours.

If this happens to you, remind your employer about the benefits to which you are entitled. After all, you’ve earned them!

Sometimes, you may be so busy that you forget about your break time. If that happens, put a reminder on your watch or mobile phone.

Members may feel pressured or obliged to work through their break times, essentially giving the employer free time that isn’t compensated. Don’t give in to this pressure! The hard work you put in during your scheduled work hours is enough.

At the same time, your employer deserves your focused attention as soon as your break is over, so please don’t abuse your rights by lingering too long before checking back in to your duties.

Breaks are good for your health

Using break time wisely is a key to staying healthy and maintaining focus when you are back on the job.

Be sure to take breaks, both for your own health and relaxation and to affirm the importance of this benefit that your union and fellow members, past and present, have fought hard to maintain.


Read Before You Sign!
Take the time to read company policies

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re busy stocking or waiting on a customer and your manager asks you to sign something. You ask what it is and he or she says, “It’s just something that the company wants everyone to sign and I have to send it in right away!”

Many of us have been in this situation and it seems harmless enough, because if it was really important, management would make sure we had time to read whatever it is they are asking us to sign. Right?

Not necessarily. In fact, this should raise a red flag in your mind.

What seems harmless can cost you your job if you’re not careful.

Let’s make this clear: You need to read carefully what you are agreeing

to before you sign anything or click

acknowledgement of it on a computer screen. Our employers are required to give you a proper amount of time to read and understand any new policy or changes in the way you do your work.

Many members violate policies that they never understood, even though they had acknowledged they understood those policies. In such cases, ignorance is not an allowable defense!

Here’s a case in point: A union steward witnessed a manager approach a checker while she was scanning out a customer. The manager asked her to sign the rules and regulations for a promotional game. The checker simply signed the sheet without even looking at what she signed and continued with the long line of customers that had formed.

Later that day, the same checker kept a stack of game pieces that customers did not want throughout the day, which was a violation of the policy she acknowledged with her signature.

Her actions, though seemingly harmless, put her job at risk. Luckily, another checker who read the policy informed her of the promo policy and she replaced the game pieces and avoided being disciplined or terminated.

Here’s another case: A member was accused of abusing company policy when she offered a disgruntled customer her own associate discount number. Innocently enough, our member believed she was solving a customer service issue, but instead the customer continued to use the member’s reward number. The member was confronted by management and was suspended until further notice for failing the policies she had signed without reading.

The member’s defense was ignorance of the company policy, even though she signed off on a training packet. Through the grievance process our member was placed back to work on a “last and final” warning, but she lost two weeks of wages due to the suspension.

Depending on the severity of the violation, some members lose their jobs.

Some common policy violations involve time and attendance, sweeps, promotional games or rewards programs, safety, shoplifting, food safety and dress code.

Don’t let yourself get in trouble! Before you sign anything, ask for time to read and understand what you are signing, and then obtain a copy for your own reference.


Your Rights During Management & Loss Prevention Interviews
Ask for union representation by asserting your Weingarten Rights

You have the right to assistance from your union representative if you are questioned by company management or security. This is a huge value that comes with your union membership!

It is crucial to understand your fundamental rights, called Weingarten Rights, in case you are ever questioned in an investigatory interview.

An investigatory interview occurs when:

• management questions an employee to obtain information; and

• the employee has a reasonable belief that discipline, or other negative consequences might result from what he or she says during an interview.

Investigatory interviews may relate to such subjects as damage to company property, absenteeism, accidents, compliance with work rules, drinking, drugs, falsification of records, fighting, in­sub­or­dination, tardiness, poor attitude, poor work performance, theft, violation of safety rules and sexual harassment, just to name a few.

How your Weingarten Rights work

An employee must make a clear request for union representation before or during an interview and will not be punished for such a request.

If the employee requests representation, the employer must choose from three options: grant the request and delay questioning until the union representative arrives and has a chance to consult privately with the employee; deny the request and end the interview immediately; or give the employee a choice of having the interview without representation or ending the interview.

If the employee’s request for union representation is denied by the employer and questioning of the employee continues, the employee has a right to refuse to answer the questions. An employee may not be disciplined for such a refusal.

This is not to say you won’t be disciplined after invoking your Weingarten Rights and possibly sent home until you have representation to proceed. It only means that the employer must prove it has other grounds to justify the discipline.

If you do not invoke your Weingarten Rights or if you waive those rights during an investigatory interview, you give up your legal protections under the law and your union has no basis to challenge the investigatory interview with your employer.

Remember, you have the right to invoke your Weingarten Rights at any time during an investigatory interview if you have a reasonable belief that discipline, or other negative consequences might result from what you say.

If and when you feel that your job is in jeopardy, stop the meeting immediately and ask to have a union representative be with you and advise you.

Don’t feel guilty for doing so. It’s your right!


Don’t Chase Shoplifters!
Apprehending thieves is not your job

It is that time of year when the stores get busy and shoppers are usually in one of two moods: really happy or really grumpy. Most are in a hurry.

It is also that time of year when we see an increase in shoplifting.

Some folks come into the stores with bad intentions, knowing our members have lots of work to do. These folks are there to take advantage of the busy season because they feel it is easier to go unnoticed and take a few items without paying for them.

Shoplifting is a loss to the store’s bottom line, which can have an effect on how many hours are scheduled for our members. If you’re a department head, it has an effect on your department’s shrink.

All of these lost products are replaceable, and in most cases shoplifting can be controlled. What’s really important during a shoplifting incident is that your job security and your wellbeing are protected!

We emphasize to our members that it is not your job to apprehend or chase a shoplifter. We know this is easier said than done, but please always put safety first when it comes to a situation involving shoplifting.

When we’re on the front end and we see someone run out the door without paying for something, a lot of times our impulse is to chase after that person. But as your union representatives, we can’t stress to you enough — don’t do it!

Please don’t try to stop a shoplifter and most certainly don’t chase him or her out of the store.

We have had members getting injured while attempting to stop shoplifters and we have had members lose their jobs for these actions.

We know some store managers take an aggressive approach to shoplifters and they even expect union members who are key carriers to chase after a shoplifter, but please don’t!

While you may think you are only helping to stop someone who has committed a crime, in reality the only one you could be hurting is yourself. Even if you aren’t hurt, you could lose your job!


Workplace Violence: Your Union Can Help

UFCW members face a wide variety of safety and health hazards on the job. Assaults and threats of violence are among the most serious.

More retail workers are victims of violence than those who are employed in any other industry. Overall, homicide is the third leading cause of death on the job, with almost half of all homicides occurring in retail environments.

The chief responsibility for providing a safe workplace rests with employers. To help them, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has special recommendations for employers to keep a workplace safe day or night.

Of course, employees also have an important role in assuring their own safety and the safety of their co-workers.

The union always should be considered a valuable resource as employees work with management to address workplace violence.

It’s up to all of us to protect each other. If the company is not taking care of issues that need to be addressed, especially when it comes to safety, please come to us to get these issues resolved.

Are the lights working in the parking lot? Are emergency numbers posted clearly? Is the entrance to the building easily seen from the street and clear of heavy growth? Are personal or silent alarms installed? Is the safe working as it should?Are security cameras and mirrors placed properly?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” let us know and we will contact management to get it fixed.

Don’t keep these things to yourself because you’re afraid the company will be upset because putting in a light will cost money – your life or the life of a co-worker could be at stake.

Most importantly, pay attention to your surroundings, especially late at night. You would never walk alone down a dark alley, so why would you go into a dark parking lot?

Defining workplace violence

Any type of assault that causes physical or psychological harm is considered workplace violence. Even if a threat isn’t carried out, it can cause lasting harm to those who are affected.

Definitions of violence include, but aren’t limited to:

  • shooting
  • stabbing
  • assault
  • bullying
  • robbery
  • unwanted sexual advancements
  • swearing or shouting at a co-worker
  • verbal threats
  • intimidation

If you or someone you know has been the victim of such actions, talk about it with your Union Representative right away.

After the threat is over

Sometimes, after the primary issue is resolved and the threat of violence is removed, it can still feel stressful to return to work. Traumatic events can cause people to experience intense emotions and have difficulty thinking rationally.

Everyone reacts differently to these types of incidents at work. The healing process is not a one size fits all process.

The stress from these types of incidents can manifest themselves in different ways such as not sleeping well, a change in eating habits, difficulty in personal relationships along with feelings of depression or thinking that drugs or alcohol will fix the problem or just help you forget for a while.

These types of solutions are not the answer. There are services available to help you through the difficult times.

UFCW Local 1428 members may call (866) 268-2510 to contact the Employee/Member Assistance Program (EMAP), which can help survivors of traumatic events and provide education on healthy coping strategies.

EMAP is confidential and free to members and their families.