Using Information Requests To Win Your Grievances

Use your union rights to get employer records to beat unfair discipline and enforce the contract.

Your boss is required to turn over more company records than you might think, which could help members win grievances and arbitrations.

Understanding how to use this right can strengthen your case and make the difference between winning and losing.

This article outlines some of the basics behind using information requests.

You will need more detailed advice to put this into practice effectively. Get help from TDU to be sure you understand your rights under the grievance procedure in more detail.

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.

Information requests must be made in good faith—not just to irritate the boss.

But you can use information requests to strengthen almost any grievance.

“It’s a good idea to submit detailed information requests each time you file a grievance,” advises Robert Schwartz in The Legal Rights of Union
Stewards. “Employers sometimes settle to avoid answering questions or providing sensitive documents.”

What kind of information does the union have the right to request?

The union has the right to company documents, facts, and data, so long as the information is relevant to the grievance or contract interpretation issue. Information requests can be quite general. For example, employers must respond to broad requests like:

  • “Please supply all documents or records which
    refer to or reflect the factors causing you to reject this grievance.”
  • “Please supply all factual bases for the company’s decision.”
  • “Please provide all documents, reports, and other evidence utilized in making the decision to discipline the employee.”

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.

Who can request the information?

Shop stewards and union officers can request information from the company. Although shop stewards can request information, if the employer refuses the request or stalls, the backing of the local union will be crucial. So whenever possible, it is best to get your business agent on board with an information request.

What if the company refuses to fulfill the request?

Refusals to provide information or unreasonable delays are violations of 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.

How can I get my BA to back up my information request?

Many business agents aggressively use information requests as a tactic to win grievances. If you are worried that your business agent might not be eager to request the information, ask them to request information from the company and explain specifically in writing what information you would like them to request.


LUIS_RIVERA_948.jpg

“When I saw the company violating our contract with outside owner-operators picking up and delivering our loads, we did more than just file a grievance on the issue.

I put in an information request to get all the facts on how many hours Teamster drivers worked and how
many hours subcontractors worked. When the company refused to fulfill that info request, I filed a ULP at the NLRB, and ultimately, we were able to get the information to prove our case!

“A steward may have to put pressure on the local and company to follow through. By being persistent we can enforce our contracts.”

Frank Villa
UNFI
Local 630, Los Angeles


Examples of Information You Can Request


The union is entitled to a wide variety of records to investigate a grievance or prepare for bargaining, including:

  •  Accident reports
  • Attendance records
  • Bargaining notes
  • Contracts for other facilities
  • Customer lists
  • Disciplinary records
  • Employer manuals
  • Interview notes
  • Investigative reports
  • Job descriptions
  • Personnel files
  • Schedules
  • Time cards
  • Video
  • Wage and salary records
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