Questions & Answers

Can I have a steward present during supervision?

Probably not.

You have the right to ask for the presence or involvement of a union rep when you have a reasonable belief that a discussion (and your responses in it) could or probably would lead to disciplinary action.

Under normal circumstances, a run-of-the-mill meeting with your supervisor does not qualify. If you are not sure whether your circumstances are normal, please contact us.

Weingarten; Stewards; Supervision

My supervisor is telling me I need to use CTO to round out the normal hours on my timesheet. That doesn’t seem right. Are they allowed to do that?

Probably not.

You have the right to ask for the presence or involvement of a union rep when you have a reasonable belief that a discussion (and your responses in it) could lead to disciplinary action against yourself.

Under normal circumstances, a run-of-the-mill meeting with your supervisor does not qualify. If you are not sure whether your circumstances are normal, please contact us.

CTO; Timesheets

I am being asked to work with a particular client (or at a particular house) other than where I normally work. I am certain that I do not have the necessary training, education, or qualifications to do this. What should I do?

Send a text or email to the supervisor or program manager in question that says something like this: “I believe this work assignment is inappropriate or dangerous because I have not been adequately trained for it. I will perform this assignment to the best of my abilities because I want to avoid discipline, but I am doing so under protest. And, because I have informed you of my concerns, I decline to accept any responsibility for negative outcomes from your decision to give me this assignment.” Basically, whatever conveys, “I’ll do what you’ve asked but I think it’s a bad idea, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Safety; Work Assignments

Someone told me I need permission from HR if I want to have outside employment. Is that actually true?

That is true under certain circumstances.

Our contract lays out a litmus test for when outside employment would need agency approval.

  • Does it provide similar services as Howard within Howard’s catchment?
  • Is it private practice?
  • Does its schedule conflict with your Howard schedule or job responsibilities?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then agency approval is required and “Agency decisions concerning permissible outside employment shall be final.”

If the answer to all three is no, then our contract does not require employees to proactively seek HR approval—although it may ultimately be in your best interest to do so anyway.

Moonlighting; Outside Employment

If I need a union rep for a meeting that can’t be delayed, and I can’t find a steward, can I just get another union member to go with me?

Sure. It’ll do in a pinch.

Weingarten; Stewards

Can the bosses just do pretty much whatever they want, even if it violates our contract, the law, or their own policies?

Yes. And no.

Do you remember, in grade school, that when you’d ask, “Can I go to the bathroom?” there was always at least one especially irritating teacher who’d take the opportunity to correct your wording? “I don’t know—can you?” Then you’d look puzzled, and they’d say, “Yes, you may go to the bathroom.”

It’s basically like that. Just because an employer may not do certain things does not mean that they cannot do those things. So if you tell a steward about the actions of a supervisor and that steward says, “Hey, they can’t do that,” what is actually meant is that the supervisor is not supposed to do that thing.

But so what? Well, in some instances there are real mechanisms in place to hold management accountable for its actions. However, those mechanisms sometimes take a while to work and the outcome isn’t always what we’d hope.
The most useful way to think about all of this is that a boss can do whatever we collectively allow (or don’t).

Grievances; Supervisors; NLRA

I just found out we have a union. Am I already a member?

No. (Probably not.)

If you are in a bargaining-unit position, that means you’re covered by the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement, the union’s contract with management). However, being in the bargaining unit is not equal to being a union member. Of course, you should be a union member, so please join!

Bargaining Unit; Union Membership

Do I have to join the union? If I’m not a union member, does that mean I’m not allowed to have a steward or something?

No. As long as your job is classified as part of the bargaining unit, the union has a duty of fair representation, meaning that you are entitled to steward representation, assistance filing grievances, and so on. Currently, the only exceptions are when a grievance at any point beyond Step 3, or in disciplinary or arbitration matters that require the attention of any professional staff from AFSCME Council 93 (e.g., union attorneys, individual staffer attention and support, etc.). In those instances, non-members will receive a bill for services.

All union members pay dues, and stewards and union officers donate huge amounts of unpaid personal time in addition to membership dues. Those stewards are even legally bound to represent you the same way they would represent a union member. Please think about that if you ever need to ask a steward for help.

Bottom line: you are already benefiting from the union’s presence and its work on behalf of you and everyone else in the bargaining unit. When someone decides not to join, it harms all of us by weakening our strength in front of the bosses when we need to negotiate. It effectively says to your dues-paying coworkers, “Thanks for everything, but you’re own your own.”

Union Membership; Dues; DFR

I recently transferred to a new position. My new supervisor told me that I’m starting it out on probation. Doesn’t that mean they could fire me for any reason?

No. Probation due to transfer or promotion is not the same as initial probation for new hires. It is shorter (baseline 4 months) and, most critically, you are still protected by the entire CBA, including just cause.

Probation; Job Change

I received a letter from HR saying I’m being investigated for something. It says I have the right to union representation… but it also says I am not supposed to talk to other employees about what’s happening, and our stewards are all employees. What am I supposed to do?

You are allowed to speak to other employees in the bargaining unit about the situation and the letter you received. This includes union members, stewards, officers, and so on.

You are not permitted to interfere with an active investigation, destroy evidence, tamper with witnesses, etc. In most cases, workers who receive these letters are not even sure what they’re about, which means willful interference would be impossible anyway.

Regardless, you should reach out to the union the moment you receive anything like this letter from HR and should not go to any meetings or speak with any management or supervisory staff about it unless you have a union rep with you. It doesn’t matter whether you are innocent. Never turn down an opportunity to lawyer-up.

Discipline; HR Investigations; Weingarten

HR wants me to attend a disciplinary interview at 208 tomorrow even though they just told me about it yesterday. I still haven’t gotten a specific steward assigned to me yet. What happens now?

Ask our steward dispatch or any other union rep to immediately request postponement. Be clear that it is time-sensitive.

Alternatively, you can send an email to HR requesting postponement pending steward availability. If you do that, be sure to cc: the union (

In general, HR is obliged to reschedule until a time when the first steward (or other union rep) is available.

Discipline; HR Investigations; Weingarten; Stewards

Last updated 2/28/20

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