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New Book Promises to Jump Start Union Grievances

Robert M. Schwartz, author of several popular union labor law guides, has written a new book entitled Just Cause: A Union Guide To Winning Disciplinary Cases.

Based on more than four years of research into 15,000 arbitration awards, and the author's long experience representing unions, the book presents a new method to analyze and present disciplinary cases.

The book begins by reviewing the "Seven Tests of Just Cause" developed by arbitrator Carroll Daugherty in 1964. While several of these tests have been accepted by the arbitration profession, others, such as the necessity for an "objective" investigation, have not. These must be discarded or modified, according to Schwartz.

Moreover, says Schwartz, the "Seven Tests," widely used by unions in the U.S. and Canada, inexplicably omitted two concepts frequently cited by arbitrators when overturning punishments: progressive discipline and mitigating circumstances.

Modifying the seven tests, Schwartz presents what he terms is the far more widely accepted "Seven Basic Principles of Just Cause." These are:

1. Fair notice
An employer may not discipline an employee for violating a rule of standard whose nature and penalties have not been made known.

2. Consistency
An employee may not be penalized for violating a rule or standard that the employer has failed to enforce for a prolonged period.

3. Due process
An employer must conduct an interview or a hearing before issuing discipline, must take action promptly, and must list charges precisely. Once assessed, discipline may not be increased.

4. Substantial proof
Charges must be proven by substantial and credible evidence.

5. Equal treatment
Unless a valid distinction justifies a higher penalty, an employer may not assess a considerably stronger punishment against one employee than it assessed against another known to have committed the same or a substantially similar offense.

6. Progressive discipline
When responding to misconduct that is short of egregious, the employer must issue at least one level of discipline that allows the employee an opportunity to improve.

7. Mitigating and extenuating circumstances
Discipline must be proportional to the gravity of the offense, taking into account any mitigating, extenuating, or aggravating circumstances.

Schwartz explains each principle, cites relevant quotations from authorities, provides sample letters and checklists, and shares many "grievance tips" directed to shop stewards and union officers.

A final chapter deals with practical subjects such as writing up a grievance, deadlines, requesting information, presenting a winning argument, and building solidarity.

As with all of Schwartz's books, Just Cause is well illustrated. Price is $20.00 and can be ordered from Work Rights Press at: www.workrightspress.com.

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