Teacher and School Staff Right TO Union
The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA) guarantees that all educational employees are entitled to union representation when the employee is interviewed by an employer and there is a reasonable fear that the interview may result in discipline. The employee must request such representation. Because of the importance of this right, all educational employees need to be aware of it and make appropriate and timely requests for representation. The right to representation is based upon Section 3(a) of the Act. This provision grants educational employees the right “to organize, form, join, or assist in employee organizations or engage in lawful concerted activities for mutual aid and protection.”
Union representation serves two important purposes. First, it provides the individual employee with an articulate spokesperson who can help the employee present the employer with facts in support of his or her position. Second, it allows the union to monitor overall discipline by the employer and make certain that it is applied fairly and uniformly.
In order to be granted the right to union representation, the employee must request to have the union representative present. This request needs to be made at the earliest opportunity. The employee must also have a reasonable belief that the interview or investigation will result in disciplinary action.
If the employee requests union representation, the employer has the option of agreeing to such representation or proceeding in its investigation without interviewing the employee. The employee, by the same token, can agree to forego union representation if he or she so desires. However, it would be imprudent to do so without first discussing the matter with a union representative. Additionally, the employee should not sign disciplinary documents without first consulting a union representative who can review the documents.
Finally, if the union representative is present at the interview, the employer has no duty to bargain with the representative at the investigation interview. The representative is present solely to advise the employee and help clarify the employee’s position.
The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) has held, however, that the right to representation does not apply to a post-observation evaluation conference when a teacher is under remediation. The reasoning of the Board was that there is no reasonable fear that the conference would lead to discipline. The Board also made it clear that if the parties included a provision for union representation at post-observation evaluation conferences in the collective bargaining agreement, such representation would be required.
If you feel that your right to union representation has been violated, please contact us for a Free Teacher Right to Union Representation Consultation.