I and several employees have been working above our title. In the contract, it states each title and what the min/max hourly rate of pay is. The union is speaking in our behalf to have us move up to top title or only do functions within our title. I asked if we can get paid retroactively for the time we were doing a higher title's work but my shop-steward said it most likely won't happen. Is that possible? Not including the other employees, I alone would be entitled to over $20,000 for work I did even when I shouldn't have.
Your union rep is most likely not an employment lawyer and does not have an interest in fighting this battle for you. Assuming you can prove that you worked the higher paying job, you, and the others should be paid for all hours worked, and should claim interest, penalties, and attorneys fees if the employer refuses. If you have any other questions I would be glad to answer them. Kind Regards.
Mr. Finn's answer is incorrect, assuming you work for a private employer. When the employees voted in the union, they voted for it to be their exclusive representative for wages, hours and terms of employment. If you look at the first few provisions of the contract, one of them will state the union is the exclusive representative. There is no individual right of action as it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 - 169 (NLRA, also known as Labor Management Relations Act or LMRA).
Mr. Finn is also wrong when he implies it's bad that your union rep is not an employment lawyer. Employment lawyers have no special knowledge or expertise in labor (union) issues. Employment attorneys deal with the civil law – statutes, regulations, court cases, etc. Union representatives deal with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA or contract), previous grievance settlements, and the arbitration decisions resolving labor relations disputes. All union-related actions are subject to the NLRA, cited above, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (LMRDA or Landrum-Griffin Act).
Mr. Finn is wrong again when he states the union rep does not have an interest in fighting this battle. The statement can only be made by someone who doesn't know what unions are, what a union does, and the reasons they exist. The sole purpose of a union is to advance the interests of the workers. Most union reps try very hard to do the right thing. Many give up hours and hours of their spare time to help the union in negotiations, grievance and arbitration handling, research, organizing and more.
That's not to say early all union reps are good at what they do. Most elected and appointed union reps start out as rank-and-file workers. They may be elected due to work competence, seniority, intelligence, charm, good looks, having a big mouth, blustering, oratory skills, etc. – just like politicians. There is a range of skills and a range of experience among them. Most unions provide some training for officers and stewards, but others don’t have the resources to do so. The quantity and quality of training can vary widely. This is one reason to get involved yourself, and to actively participate in the grievance. all elected and appointed union officers start out as rank-and-file workers.
To address your particular question: the grievance process is the only way to handle this issue. If the union is pursuing the grievance, that is great, because unions are not obligated to pursue every possible claim. If the union takes the grievance all the way through the several steps of the grievance process and moves it to arbitration, the arbitrator will decide the remedy for the employer's violation of the contract, provided of course the union proves the violation.
You and the other employees can advocate for the union to pursue retroactive pay. Talk to the union president or business agent – whoever is the highest elected official in the union – and help him or her understand why this is so important. Probably the official will understand without having to be told, but it helps to let him or her know how much it means to you.
Unions are the only thing standing between any worker and the employer’s ability to do whatever it wants. Without unions, there is no organized opposition to corporate efforts to take away workers’ rights. It is no coincidence that as union membership has declined, so have on-the-job benefits such as health insurance and pensions.
All your life, you’ve heard “there is strength in numbers.” You hear it because it is true. The best way to make a union stronger and better-able to help all workers is to participate in its work. Read the collective bargaining agreement (contract). Attend union meetings, ask questions and think about what is happening at the workplace. Help your union help you.
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