OPEIU Local 39
October 2015Vol 3, Issue 4
Your Voice 
Your Choice 
OPEIU Local 39 Newsletter
There are lots of demands on all of us, our time and our abilities. One ability that you may feel called upon to exercise is keeping focused in the pressure of a meeting with management and HR. You may feel like it's all on you, but it's not. More below.

Another demand that should never be made is that we read our manager's mind just to find out how we're doing. Don't wait until presented with a "Corrective Action Plans" or other coaching documents to discover what needs improvement.

In the articles below we'll talk about what to do instead of trying to read someone's mind in order to keep your job. Also, at the bottom of this and every newsletter, you'll find the list of upcoming Membership meetings as well as your rights under the Weingarten decision. More below.
In This Issue
Quick Links
Wait. What?
Have you ever been to the doctor and suddenly you were hearing things that weren't so good? How did you react? Were you suddenly sharp and focused? "On task"? Asking all the right questions? Did you remember all of the answers?

Nope. Me neither. When the doctor is starting to talk about how they "don't like the look of" something for most people the mind goes numb, caught in a "wait, what?" loop. We might answer questions but rarely will any of us remember what we said. Even more rare is the person who remembers to ask clarifying questions of their own. Because it is so common, many doctors will urge you to bring someone with you to your next appointment: to help you cope, to help you remember, to ask questions, and keep track of what has to happen next.

If you are called in to a meeting with your manager and a person from HR and they're calling the meeting an "investigatory interview," doesn't that feel a lot like bad news from the doctor? Unfortunately, the Company doesn't often remind Members that it's their RIGHT to have someone from the Union in the meeting, but it is. We mentioned this back in the August newsletter, but we want to make sure the information is clear. It is your right to put a halt to any meeting that could result in any sort of discipline and ask for the presence of a Union Steward. It is in the contract, it is part of national labor law (see Weingarten Rights below and at the bottom of every newsletter), and it is your BEST hope that the outcome of that and subsequent meetings is the best you can achieve. They have to stop the meeting and find a Steward for you.

The Stewards have been there before, in those kinds of meetings. They won't be in shock the whole time and they will have your back. They'll have better questions to ask than "Wait! What?" They'll take notes and they'll help you so that your side of the investigation is handled fairly and properly. You are part of a Union and that means it isn't just you facing down HR all on your own. Your Steward is your ally.

Unfortunately, too often people get scared. They think they are in trouble and they don't want to make it worse. But they are only half right. Yes, they are in trouble, or may soon be. If only HR is in the room, then an "investigatory interview" may only explore one side of an issue. Calling a Steward will NOT make it worse for you, it will give you your best chance to have your side of the situation brought to light.

But our Stewards won't know that you've been called in to a disciplinary meeting unless you tell them. It's simple to do. When faced with the bad news of a meeting with HR, all you have to do is ask for a Steward and sit tight. Also, if there's any chance that you might become overwhelmed by even the suggestion that your job could be in trouble, you can take a simple step ahead of time. Type out or print and clip this section from the Weingarten Rights below and keep it with you. If you ever find yourself in that sort of meeting, just dig it out and present it to your manager or the HR rep. Then sit tight and wait for the Steward to arrive.

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or Steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."
Are You A Mind Reader?
How's it going? No, really. Do you know? Have you asked? Too many of us rely on the "no news is good news" approach to our performance, but unless you can read minds, the reality is often the first news we get is being called into a meeting with HR and presented with something like a Corrective Action Plan (a document used at our largest bargaining unit and the one I'm most familiar with). Those are, at best, an incredible hassle to deal with, so let's look at a few simple steps that we can take to avoid getting on a CAP. However, if it does happen (or has already), there are ways of making the CAP be something you can use to your advantage.

The first, and simplest, step is to ask your manager about their perception of your performance. Don't rely on a positive relationship or your mad skillz at mind reading. When you ask the question, take the answer seriously and don't try to argue (not yet!) if it isn't a glowing report right off the bat. Take detailed and dated notes and when you get back to your desk send an email to your manager recounting what you have just heard, every point.

This does two things for you. The first is that it helps you ensure that you did, actually, just hear what you thought you did and you didn't miss anything if you got caught in a "Wait. What?" loop. Your manager may reply and you can have a clarifying exchange to be sure that you are both on the same page.

The second thing that this does is create an electronic "paper trail" that you can refer back to. It puts the discussion on record, captured within the Company's email system. You are also strongly encouraged to blind copy, or bcc, yourself at an external email address. Evernote is a fantastic notebook system that provides an email address so you can send emails directly to the program which then creates notes out of them that you can refer to as needed.

Too often, the tendency is for managers to say things like, "I need you to improve your communication skills," or "you're not meeting my expectations for someone in your position." You're more than happy to address those issues, but how? What does improvement even look like? Don't try to read your manager's mind on this! Don't guess that you know what it means. Find out!

The Union can help with this. If you have discovered that your manager isn't pleased with your performance and has given you areas to improve, contact a Steward or the Union office (who will find a Steward for you) who can look the suggested areas of improvement and help you ask the questions that will get these to something closer to a SMART goal. We're asked to create SMART goals for our performance reviews and this isn't really any different. At best, you and your Steward can encourage your manager to make "Improve communication skills" or whatever they see as a deficit in your performance into something that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

If you still find yourself being placed on a Corrective Action Plan (or are already on one) be sure to let your Steward know ASAP and start documenting EVERYTHING immediately ( there's more information in this newsletter). Because CAPS are intended to be "coaching documents," the manager is to list the areas in which the employee needs to improve and then provide the coaching to aid in that improvement. With the help of the Union, you can get the most coaching possible out of the document. The Steward can help make sure you get a copy of the document, that you and your manager update it regularly, that the areas listed for improvement are listed in ways that are SMART. In short, the Steward can help make sure that the CAP lists your path to success.
Upcoming Membership Meetings
Unions = Gym Membership
Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of the quarter, at 5:30 PM in the Union Office: 701 Watson Ave, Ste 102 in Madison.


November 18th, 2015 
February 17th, 2016
May 18th, 2016
August 17th, 2016 
This is your Union. Your participation gives us the tools we need to face the continued opposition of both companies and politicians. We strive to make the meetings relevant and to the point. Please  participate in the democracy that is your Union.
Know Your Rights!               
photopin by Weingarten Rights
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff.  These are called Weingarten Rights.
An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.
You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview.  Management does not have to remind you of this right.  If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer.  Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed.  If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion." 
We have a wide and varied membership filled with lots of talented people. Our Stewards do very good work under hard conditions, with talent and skill. If you find yourself facing a meeting that could lead to discipline or are being required to undergo coaching of whatever sort, reach out to the Union office or your local Steward.The phone number for the office is (608) 257-4734 or you can email our Business Agent Debi Eveland or the Local 39 President M. Kathryn Bartlett-Mulvihil. We'll put all of our skills together to get the best possible outcome. It won't require mind reading.
In Solidarity,
OPEIU Local 39
Copyright OPEIU Local 39. Content written and/or edited by David O. Engelstad
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