Top 10 things to do when you're in trouble...or wonder if you might be!
STOP! SAY NOTHING! CALL ME IMMEDIATELY! Never admit anything. Anything. Sure, you think you just want to be honest and admit that, maybe, just maybe, you might have made a little teeny, weenie mistake. In your attempt to be honest, your admission may be construed as guilt of much, much more than you intended. If management accuses, listen carefully, take good notes, and admit nothing. That said, always be honest with your union rep, to a degree that there is nothing criminal potentially involved…remembering that I do not have attorney client privilege. WAIT to tell the whole story to your MEA attorney if it is a criminal accusation. (And don;t worry, I won't let you tell me anything you shouldn't.)
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER PROVIDE A WRITTEN STATEMENT Keep notes for your own purposes and for MEA to defend you, but do not give them to administration.
JUST THE FACTS: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE If it appears that some management skulduggery is afoot, start keeping meticulous notes of meetings, conversations, events, etcetera. Keep track of who is there, what time it is, and who said what to who.
KEEP GOOD RECORDS Don’t throw anything away. Make sure that we have copies of every piece of paper that could possibly be relevant in your situation. Things have a way of disappearing.
DON’T FORGET TIMELINES The contract provides specific grievance timelines. We are sometimes a little loosey-goosey about rescheduling grievance hearings and extending timelines, but it can only be stretched so far. If the timeline does get extended, make sure that is in writing, such as an email confirming.
READ THE CONTRACT What are your rights? Your contract provides excellent protection against unfair treatment and discipline.
KEEP YOUR COOL Don’t lose your temper and say something that will make matters worse.
DON’T BE RUSHED If administration wants to meet with you right away to discuss some problem, take it easy. Take time to get your union rep lined up, to read your contract, and to check things out. If you are in trouble, they are required to wait for your union rep to be there, unless it is a matter of safety and security that it is handled immediately.
CHECK YOUR PERSONNEL FILES ONCE A YEAR At least! Did you know there is not only a personnel file, but a principal’s file, with your name on it? Ask to see what’s in there, and let your union rep know if you see anything fishy.
ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR WEINGARTEN RIGHT When administration asks to meet with you, ask yourself if it is something that might lead to discipline. If the answer is yes, you have the right to a union advocate in the room. If you are denied the right, just keep requesting the union rep no matter what question administration asks. Say this: "I will be happy to answer your questions as soon as my union rep is present."