The Stewards Role
The nature and procedures of disciplinary hearings are governed by law, contracts, and/or
In general, the steward should follow these guidelines at a hearing:
- Speak to the member prior to the hearing. If it is a formal disciplinary hearing with a
notice, check the notice and proceed with an investigation of the alleged infraction. If you are
called in at the last minute, seek a postponement so that you can make a proper investigation.
If the meeting is informal, make sure the member has time to talk with you ahead of time or
take a recess to get some understanding as to what happened.
- Prior to the hearing, inform the member who will be present, how the meeting will be
conducted and what he/she should expect.
- Get as much information as you can beforehand. Do not let the employer withhold
information. If they do, speak to your local union. Document any denials of information in
writing and get it on the record.
- If there are any witness at the meeting or hearing you should question them as you see
fit. In most formal hearings, the process of questioning the company's witness is called cross-examination. You have a right to ask these witnesses questions to determine the accuracy of
their testimony and their biases. Your rights to questioning should not be interfered with by the
hearing office. If you are denied that right, make sure that such denial is entered on the record.
- It is perfectly proper for members to answer questions with, "yes," "no," or "I don't
know." Once the member has answered a question, he/she is under no obligation to elaborate.
- At most hearings the steward can take as active a role as he/she sees fit.
- You can stop the meeting at any time to speak privately with the member.
- Take notes or bring in a second person to take notes. Some contracts explicitly
state that the union can bring the same number of representatives into a hearing as has
- Do not rely on the supervisor's notes. If this is a formal trial, such as in the railroad
industry, make sure that the trial transcript accurately reflects what happened at the meeting.
- The written record is important. It documents what actually was said, not what was
allegedly said. Cases have been won and lost on the accuracy of the record.
- The bottom line is to make sure that the member is treated as fairly as possible under
circumstances that are heavily weighted against him/her. You must handle all discipline as if
the case will go to arbitration. Remember, even if the investigation does not go the way you
had hoped, you can challenge the discipline, how management conducted itself through the
process, or the just clause section of your contract by appealing through your grievance
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