Your Right to Get a Copy of Your Contract

UPDATED September 4, 2012:

So. Cal Teamsters: Two Year Wait—No Contract Books

The Southern California master grocery contract, covering 5,000 Teamsters, was ratified in October 2010. But after two years, members still can't get a copy of their contract.

How can members enforce their contract if they can't even get a copy?

Phil Richards, Unified Grocers
Local 630, Los Angeles

"This has to be a record for delaying giving us our contract," said Phil Richards, a warehouse worker for Unified Grocers in Local 630. "When members ask for a copy, we get an excuse. In every local, the excuse is different; but the result is the same: we don't have the contract books, so we can't hold the employer to the agreement."

Many other Teamsters have been given the runaround when they've tried to get a copy of their new contract. Sometimes even our national contracts are delayed by the International Union for a year or more.

Fortunately, members' rights to their contract is backed up by federal law. Knowing and using this legal right can help you enforce your contract.

Your Legal Rights

Union members have a right to have their current collective bargaining agreement—no ifs, ands, or buts. If the actual contract book is not yet printed, federal law requires that the local union provide a photocopy to any member who requests the contract.

This is part of the federal Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

If local union officers put you off when you ask for a copy, your request should be put in writing and mailed certified mail.

What About Side Letters?

Union members also have a right to get a copy of any amendments, riders, side letters, or memoranda of understanding.

Some union officials give members the runaround in providing those agreements too. Just ask Rhode Island Hospital Teamsters.

For two months, Local 251 officials have stonewalled members and refused to give them copies of these side agreements.

In the meantime, hospital management has repeatedly pulled out side deals they've cut with the local union and used them to deny members' grievances.

Under the Teamster constitution, members also have the right to vote on any mid-contract changes that amend the contract. (Local officers can reach side agreements that clarify existing language, but not to implement a side agreement that changes the contract without a ratification vote by the members.)

As we go to press, TDU members at Rhode Island Hospital have contacted the International Union's Legal Department and are preparing to take legal action, if necessary, to enforce their right to a complete copy of their contract, including all side agreements.*

Are you having trouble getting a copy of your contract? Or do you have other questions about your legal rights? Contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union at 313-842-2600 or click here to send us a message.

*Updated Sept. 4, 2012: Persistence pays off! With help from TDU, Local 251 members have enforced their legal rights and gotten Local 251 to provide them with copies of all the side agreements between union officials and Rhode Island Hospital management.

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