About : FAQ

Unions 101

If you are new to the union, it is likely that you have many questions about what union membership means to you and the rights and protections of your union contract.

Below are frequently asked questions about unions and contractual rights, in general. The answers given provide general information to general questions. Each UFCW 951 contract is different. If you need information specific to your employer, please review your union contract or contact your steward or union representative.

General Union Frequently Asked Questions

What is a union?
What does it mean to be a union member?
What is a contract?
What is a grievance?
Why am I paying union dues and how are my dues calculated?
How is dues money spent?
How do I find out who my union stewards and union representative are?
What should I do if I keep missing by UFCW 951 union representative when he or she visits my workplace?
Who do I contact if I move?
Where can I get a copy of my contract?
How can I get information about UFCW 951 events and programs?
How can I participate with UFCW 951's organizing activities?
Who do I contact if I know someone who's interested in having a union represent his or her workplace?
Who do I contact if I want to become more involved with UFCW 951 in areas other than organizing?
Why is UFCW 951 so politically active?

Contract and Union FAQs

What do I do if my employer gives me my break or lunch later than scheduled, or denies me a break all together?
What if I think the contractual rights were violated?
What should I do if management wants to talk with me about something for which I could be disciplined?
What happens if I don't get the raise I was entitled to receive under the contract?
What if my manager accuses me of stealing?
What should I do if I believe I have been unjustly fired?
What do I do if I think, based on the contract, my work schedule is incorrect?
What if my manager tells me I have to work beyond my scheduled shift?
Who do I call if I'm too sick to work?
What do I do if I quit my job?
Can I file a grievance against a co-worker?
Will I get in trouble or fired if I file a grievance?
How is paid-time off calculated?
When do I get a raise?
What does seniority mean if I can't get weekends off?
Do I have to take a lunch break?



What is a union?
A union is a group of workers who unite to form or join an organization (the union) that represents them in their working relationship with their employer. As a group, workers can achieve much more from their employers than they can individually. Working conditions, compensation, and treatment improve when workers stand united in their union.

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What does it mean to be a union member?
As a union member, you have joined the rich tradition known as the American labor movement, which has played a significant role in society and has been credited with creating the American middle class. The purpose of a labor union is to give bargaining power to workers through collective action. This is known as collective bargaining. Historically, workers had little power to negotiate better work conditions, wages or benefits with their employers. The labor movement tipped the scales in the other direction, bringing job security and dignity to workers, as well as fair wages and benefits through their legally binding union contract.

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What is a contract?
Your union contract, or collective bargaining agreement, is a legal agreement reached between UFCW 951 and your employer through the process of collective bargaining, also known as contract negotiations. Your contract defines the terms and conditions of your employment and contains important information including wage schedules, health and retirement benefits, paid time off, protection from unjust termination, and a process you can use to achieve justice when one of your contractual rights have been violated -- the grievance procedure.

View your contract

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What is a grievance?
A grievance is a violation of one of your contractual rights by management. The grievance procedure is the process used to seek restitution from the company for their violation. A grievance form is completed to begin the grievance process. When the union presents the grievance form to the company, they have officially filed the grievance. Settling the grievance may involve several meetings with management and representatives from the union. 

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Why am I paying union dues and how are my dues calculated?
UFCW 951 members pay union dues in exchange for the benefits provided by the local. In addition to guaranteed wages, solid benefits, job security and workplace rights, UFCW 951 offers members a variety of money saving programs and services.

Each month, a portion of each member's dues is sent directly to the UFCW International, which provides members and local UFCW unions with assistance and services. Dues provide the income that takes care of the expenses of running UFCW 951 and the international union. The basic dues amount is set by members elected to serve as delegates to the UFCW International convention, which takes place every five years. At UFCW 951, we’re committed to keeping dues as low as possible.

Generally, the formula for your dues is your rate of pay for two hours of work plus $16, or the UFCW International minimum, which is currently $30.08. Most members' dues are recalculated each year, and their dues stay fixed at that level even if they get a raise during the next 12 months, as this annual recalculation of your dues results in your dues rate for the remainder of the year. The annual dues recalculation takes place for members at the following employers:

February: Meijer; Polly’s
April: Orchard Grove Nursing Facility; Healthcare Services
May: Harding’s #383
June: Kroger New Market; Plumb’s
September: Kroger
October: Harding’s #400
November: Rite Aid
December: Harding’s #356; Harding's #903

Fry Krisp and Knouse Foods recalculate dues throughout the year, while JBS, Pearson Foods and Valley City Linen follow a different deduction procedure.

The UFCW 951 Executive Board established, and the membership approved, guidelines for members who request the refunding of an overpayment of dues or fees. If you believe a mistake was made in calculating your dues, or if you want more information about your specific dues record, contact the local's Membership Records Department at 1.800.999.0951.

Approximately one month after you begin working at a UFCW 951 represented employer, you’ll notice a deduction for dues on your pay stub. No dues are collected during the first four weeks. However, you will see double dues deductions on your paycheck for the next four weeks. This procedure allows UFCW 951 to avoid the large, up-front initiation fee charged by many other local unions.

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How is dues money spent?
UFCW 951 holds regional membership meetings every quarter where members can review UFCW 951's expenditures, executive board actions and quarterly financial reports. All reports are voted on by members who attend the meetings. Quarterly meetings are held in various locations across the state.

Find a UFCW 951 quarterly meeting near you.

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How do I find out who my union stewards and union representative are?
UFCW 951 members have at least one union steward and one union representative. The names of your stewards and your union representative are posted on the union bulletin board at your workplace. Your steward can be contacted right at your workplace. You can find out who your union representative is on this website or by calling the UFCW 951 office at 1.800.999.0951.

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What should I do if I keep missing my UFCW 951 union representative when he or she visits my workplace?
UFCW 951 union representatives visit each union store or shop regularly to meet with stewards and to talk with members. Because most union representatives are assigned responsibility for several stores and units, and must visit members on each shift, it's possible you may miss your representative's visit. If this happens, you can leave a message for your representative at any time of the day or night by calling the union office at 1.800.999.0951 or via email.

Someone is at the 951 office to take your call 8:30 am - 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and a voice mail system handles your call after hours. Union representatives spend most of their time in the units, so you'll need to leave a voice mail. Your representative can retrieve this message without being in the office, and will return your call within 24 hours.

To ensure your call is returned, give your first and last names, a phone number with area code, the name of your employer, your unit number and a time when you can be reached. Remember to speak clearly and slowly.

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Who do I contact if I move?
You can update your information here on the UFCW 951 website, or you can contact the Membership Records Department at 1.800.999.0951.

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Where can I get a copy of my contract?
All UFCW 951 contracts can be found here on the website. You can also request a copy of your contract from your union representative.

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How can I get information about UFCW 951 events and programs?
Members can always get the latest UFCW 951 updates and news here on the website or on one of many social media outlets. For members who aren't online, information is available in The Bulletin, a monthly handbill published by UFCW 951, The Voice of 951, the union's bi-monthly newsletter, and through handbills and postings distributed in the units and  posted on union bulletin boards.

Facebook
Twitter
Google+
LinkedIn

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How can I participate with UFCW 951's organizing activities?
It's easy to get involved with the local's organizing campaigns. Contact the organizing department via email or call 1.800.999.0951 and ask to leave a voice mail with the organizing director.

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Who do I contact if I know someone who's interested in having a union represent his or her workplace?
Contact UFCW 951's Organizing Department with your organizing lead. You'll need the name and phone number of the worker who is interested in finding out more about union representation at his or her workplace.

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Who do I contact if I want to become more involved with UFCW 951 in areas other than organizing?
UFCW 951 welcomes volunteers in all areas the organization - this is, after all, your union. UFCW 951 members can help with political action, sign up new members, alert the union's Communications Department to interesting news about your co-workers and intern with UFCW 951. We have many members who serve on bargaining committees, count ballots, work as stewards or serve as union vice presidents. If you're interested in volunteering, contact the UFCW 951 office at 1.800.999.0951, or go here for more information.

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Why is UFCW 951 so politically active?
Since employers and anti-worker groups are extensively involved in politics, UFCW 951, and other unions, must also be politically active to protect the achievements won at the bargaining table and to further advance members' rights. Remember, with the stroke of a pen, politicians can wipe out gains that have taken workers years to achieve. 

To get politically involved in legislation affecting working families, contact UFCW 951's political representative.

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What do I do if my employer gives me my break or lunch later than scheduled, or denies me a break all together?
It's a violation of your contractual rights to be denied a break or lunch after working a specified number of hours. If you think you're entitled to a break or lunch, contact your immediate supervisor and ask that you receive a break. If you're denied the break, continue to work, but get in touch with your steward as soon as you can. If your steward confirms you were entitled to a break, he or she will immediately pursue the contract violation with management, and file a grievance, if necessary.

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What if I think my contractual rights were violated?
If you believe your rights were violated, contact your steward to determine if your problem is truly a violation of the contract. If it is, your steward will help you file a formal complaint - or grievance - and work closely with you until the matter is resolved. You should alert your steward as soon as you believe your rights have been violated as there are time frames in which certain types of grievances must be filed. 

Frequently, your UFCW 951 union representative will also be involved with the grievance procedure, especially if management seems unwilling to cooperate or if the grievance must be settled by a third-party, called an arbitrator.

UFCW 951 stewards and union representatives may also be able to help you even if your problem isn't technically a grievance.

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What should I do if management wants to talk with me about something for which I could be disciplined?
It's critical that you have a steward or union representative with you during discussions with management that you think will lead to discipline or termination. This right to union representation is known as your Weingarten Right.

Your right to representation is not automatic! You must specifically ask that a steward or union representative be called into the meeting. If a steward is unavailable, do not leave the meeting room, but do remain silent. Anything  you say can be used against you. Only ask that the meeting be rescheduled for a time when your steward or union representative will available to represent you.

The best way to handle these types of situation is to make this simple statement: If my responses to your questions could lead to me being disciplined or terminated, or negatively affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request you ask my union representative to be present at this meeting. Until my union representative arrives, I choose not to answer any questions.

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What happens if I don't get the raise I was entitled to receive under the contract?
If you fail to receive a scheduled pay increase, contact your steward or union representative immediately so a grievance can be filed. All UFCW 951 contracts have time limits in which you can make a claim for wages. The local can only help you get your back wages if a grievance is filed within these timelines.

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What if my manager accuses me of stealing?
If you're accused of stealing, immediately request union representation and refuse to provide any information until a steward or union representative is present. An accusation of theft can result in suspension during an investigation of the situation, and in termination, if theft is proven.

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What should I do if I believe I have been unjustly fired?
Call the UFCW 951 office right away if you think you've been fired without cause. In cases of discharge, your UFCW 951 union representative - not your steward - must file a grievance requesting your reinstatement. There are very strict time limits included in the contracts in which this kind of grievance must be filed, so immediate notification is very important.

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What do I do if I think, based on the contract, my work schedule is incorrect?
First, contact your immediate supervisor to talk about the error and to have the schedule corrected. If he or she is uncooperative, contact your 951 steward for help. In most cases, there's a limited timeframe in which schedule adjustments can be made.

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What if my manager tells me I have to work beyond my scheduled shift?
The "work now, grieve later" rule applies in these situations. Don't walk off the job. Continue to work, but contact your supervisor to let him or her know that your scheduled shift has ended. If he or she is uncooperative, work until dismissed, but contact your steward to file a grievance. In some cases, the company may have a right to keep you at work beyond scheduled hours, depending on business conditions and whether you've had adequate advance notice. However, you should still contact your steward or union representative to talk about the problem.

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Who do I call if I'm too sick to work?
Call  your immediate supervisor as soon as possible. Be sure to write down who you talked to and the time you called. Tell your supervisor you're sick and will not be reporting for work. You're not obligated to explain the extent of your illness, nor is it your responsibility to find a replacement for your shift.

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What do I do if I quit my job?
Notify the UFCW 951 office of your last day of work and request a withdrawal card. If you're a member in good standing, a withdrawal card will be mailed to you. Presenting a withdrawal card means any applicable initiation fee will be waived if you go on to work for another employer under contract with any UFCW local union.

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Can I file a grievance against a co-worker?
No, workers cannot file grievances against other members. Grievances may only be filed against the company for contractual violations. Employers have a responsibility to members to provide safe and harassment-free working conditions.

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Will I get in trouble or fired if I file a grievance?
It's against the law for you to be discriminated against or fired for any union activities. This ruling was set in place by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If you file a grievance and feel there's retaliation from management, get in contact with your union representative immediately.

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How is paid-time off calculated?
Calculations for paid-time off varies by contract. Generally, time off is calculated by hours or pay over the previous year. See your contract for more information or contact your union representative.

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When do I get a raise?
The timing of raises differs with each UFCW 951 contract. See your contract for more information or contact your union representative.

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What does seniority mean if I can't get weekends off?
Seniority is a relative issue. If you work with many high-seniority workers, someone has to work. Even if you're high seniority, you may still have to work the weekend. Seniority is defined by department and classification. Contact your union representative with further seniority questions.

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Do I have to take a lunch break?
For years, there wasn't any contractual language protecting members, and workers were forced to work through lunch breaks. To protect members' rights, UFCW 951 negotiated lunch breaks into contracts. However, just as UFCW 951 can force employers to give lunch breaks, employers can force members to take lunch breaks.

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