Decline to Sign (or, RTS FTW)

My last post about dealing with AT&T Asset Protection sparked a lot of interest from CWA stewards; particularly on the subject of not signing documents that AP investigators put in front of our members. A fellow representative asked me,

How much weight do you feel the RTS has carried in your case?

(Short answer: A lot. An Asset Protection interview can still end up in arbitration or the NLRB but, unsigned, cannot be used to impeach your testimony on the stand as “your own words.”)

Never Sign

  • Never sign a disciplinary letter
  • Never sign any document given by you by Asset Protection
  • Never sign a policy or list of work-rules, such as any document with the word “expectations” in it
  • Electronic “coverages” often require and “Acknowledgment” button to be clicked in order to exit; this is coercive and should be challenged as such by the union if management attempts to cite it as justification for discipline

Any steward who has ever sat in on an arbitration or NLRB hearing has seen AT&T’s attorneys and managers point to the member’s own signature on the “expectations” as proof that he knowingly violated the work-rules. Signing “expectations”, “coverages”, policies etc. indicates to an arbitrator that you were aware of all the work-rules in that document and also knew the consequences for violating them. In other words, that signature went a long way to proving that the company had just cause in issuing discipline or terminating.

Whether you are the steward or the employee being asked to sign anything besides your paycheck, keep these tips in mind:

Don’t even look at it!

  • If you are ordered to sign or acknowledge any document, you have the right to have a union steward upon your request if the boss suggests your refusal to sign a document may lead to your discipline. So before thinking about signing, ask if your refusal to do so could lead to discipline
  • Even if you refuse to sign the Asset Protection statement, the AP investigator will ask you to “read it over to make sure it is accurate.” Do not read the statement; do not touch the statement! If you do, the AP investigator will testify under oath that they watched you read it and did not object (or, even corrected the statement!). This is a trick that may lead an arbitrator or judge to decide that you agreed with the statement even though you did not sign it
  • Asset Protection is not allowed to coerce signatures, but may try to trick you into it with sweet words about “getting your side of the story down.” Do not fall for it!
  • If your boss accepts that you won’t sign something, he may still try to trick you into putting your initials on the document or the letters “RTS” Do not put pen to paper or even receive a copy of it from the boss. Let your steward have the copy and let the boss write “RTS” on the document – after all, the document has management’s side written down and you may not agree with it
  • If you are threatened with discipline or termination when you or your member refuses to sign; obey and grieve later. The settlement should be a removal of the signed document from the employee file. Also, consider filing Board charges after consultation with the Local president and attorney

Small actions taken at the beginnings of a management investigation can provide large benefits down the road in a grievance or arbitration setting for your member. Preventing yourself or your members from signing management’s statements can save a career.

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