Using our union’s legal right to file information requests from management can help stewards defend members and enforce the contract. This right is established by the National Labor Relations Act.
At UPS, this right is also written into our contract. Article 4 of the UPS National Master Agreement states that, “The Employer shall, upon written request, provide the Local Union or the steward designated by the Local Union, with documents/information that is reasonably related (based on NLRA standards) to the pending grievance.” Article 18 of the Local 804 Supplement also gives stewards the right to examine company documents.
This article outlines some of the basics on information requests and how to use them. You will need more detailed information to effectively put this into practice. Talk to your Business Agent for more information.
When can you request information? The Union may request information to:
- Monitor the employer’s compliance with the contract.
- Investigate whether a grievance exists.
- Prepare for a grievance meeting.
- Decide whether to drop or prioritize a grievance.
- Prepare for an arbitration hearing.
What can you request?
The obligation of an employer to provide information is broad. It includes relevant documents, data, and facts. Information is considered relevant if it might be useful to the union in investigating a grievance or possible grievance.
How specific does the request have to be?
Information requests can be general, as long as the information is relevant. For example, management must respond to information requests like:
“Please provide all documents, reports, and all other evidence used by management in making the decision to discipline the employee.”
“Please supply all documents or records which refer to or reflect the factors causing you to reject the union’s grievance.”
Management may complain that such information requests are “fishing expeditions,” but this language has been upheld by the NLRB, which has ordered employers to comply. These kinds of requests can be extremely useful in nailing down management’s position so that they cannot shift their argument later in the grievance procedure or at arbitration.
Other information requests can be very specific. The union is entitled to a wide variety of specific documents. See examples at the bottom of this article.
What if management refuses to provide the information?
Refusals to provide information or unreasonable delays violate Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act. The union can file an unfair labor practices charge with the NLRB if the company refuses to cooperate with an information request.
Who can request information from the employer?
Only shop stewards and union officers can request information from the company. Talk with your Business Agent and get on the same page before submitting a request.
What Info Can You Request, and When to Request It
The union is entitled to examine a wide variety of records. These are just some examples.
Documents. The union is entitled to examine a wide variety of records to investigate a grievance. Examples include: accident reports, air quality studies, attendance records, bargaining agreements for other units or facilities, management’s bargaining notes, bonus records, contracts with customers, suppliers and contractors, correspondence, customer lists, disciplinary records, employer manuals, guidelines and policies, evaluations, interview notes, investigative reports, job descriptions, memos, schedules, time cards, videotapes, wage and salary records.
Data. Employers must provide the union with lists, statistics, and other relevant data even if management must spend hours or longer putting it together. You can request data on prior disciplinary actions, promotional patterns, and overtime assignments.
Facts. Employers must answer pertinent factual inquiries. For a misconduct case, ask for the names and addresses of witnesses and descriptions of their testimony.
Disciplinary grievances. When grieving disciplinary action, request a copy of the grievant’s personnel file. If unequal punishment is an argument in the case, ask for the names of other employees and former employees, including supervisors or management, who have committed the same offense and the penalties imposed.