Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 $18, or the UFCW International minimum, which is currently $32.08. 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.

Sunberry recalculates dues throughout the year, while JBS follows 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.

How do I find out who my union steward is?

UFCW 951 members have at least one union steward in the workplace. The names of your stewards (along with your union representative) are posted on the union bulletin board at your workplace. Your steward can be contacted right at your workplace!

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 is 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 UFCW 951 office to take your call 8:30 am - 4:30 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.

How do I request a copy of my contract?

You can request a copy of your contract from your union representative or by calling the union office at 1.800.999.0951.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.