Our union is small and we have been hiring many people who will be potential union members.

A young lady that has been with us for about 2 months was put into a shipping position working with the guys that are in the union. They like her, and one of those reasons is because she shares there brash sense of humor.

One day, one of the guys tried to show her an easier way to do her job and she got angry.

Not long after, all of the guys were brought in to H.R. to ask whether they had talked about crude things and what they talked about while working.

We had recently been told about codes of conduct and red light words by the company. All the individuals who were questioned and answered honestly got written up.

She basically eaves-dropped and then used their words to get them in trouble and get moved to another, better, position.

Is there anything I can do as a union rep to fight this?

  • 7
    Yes, meet the team that have to work with her now and warn them to take care with the language they use...
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 21, 2019 at 18:48
  • @SolarMike yep, let them know they got a rat Mar 21, 2019 at 19:36
  • 2
    @Upper_Case If I'm reading this correctly, it looks like a new hire got a bunch of potential union members in trouble and the OP thinks this was done to scare them away from union membership, it also looks like she got them in trouble as retaliation for them trying to help her. Mar 21, 2019 at 20:29
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    If you, as an adult, need someone else to tell you how to conduct yourself, how to speak to and about and around other people, or how to act as an adult then I'm afraid no amount of advice is going to help. What is it that you want to fight, exactly? You know who never has to worry about this kind of thing? People who aren't numbskulls. Maybe address your own behavior, let everyone else address their own behavior, and not worry about how you can "fight" this.
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 21, 2019 at 21:27
  • 1
    An ounce of prevention. Don't engage in conversations or behavior that can get you written up and you won't have to "fight" being written up.
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 21, 2019 at 21:34

5 Answers 5


Unfortunately, it looks like you will need to speak with your team and warn them to be mindful of their language. Even if she entrapped them, the fact that unprofessional comments were made is what got them in trouble. Talk to them about "cleaning it up" when she's around but keep in mind that you're likely to run into this issue with future hires.

  • 6
    Even if she didn't entrap them, that she seemed to be cool with those jokes doesn't mean that she actually was. If she felt like she couldn't safely ask for those jokes to stop, or felt pressured to participate while uncomfortable... well, that's what these policies are for.
    – Upper_Case
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:52
  • @Upper_Case yeah, it looks like she was joining in, then ratted them out Mar 21, 2019 at 19:53
  • @RichardU Possibly. The specifics of the events are not totally clear to me here. Regardless, the policies are meant to protect in both directions (from the company's and union's perspectives). If she participated in bad faith/good faith and harvested technical violations to get her way at others' expense, then... maybe 'rat' fits. If she felt there might be consequences for her not going along or joining in, and eventually couldn't stand any more, then 'rat' seems out of line to me.
    – Upper_Case
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:57
  • "They like her,and one of those reasons is because she shares there brash sense of humor." ^This statement leads me to believe that she joined in on the joking and humor. "One day,one of the guys tried to show her an easier way to do her job and she got angry." ^This statement leads me to believe that the employee's pride may have gotten hurt and this was her way to "lash out". Either way, unprofessional comments are not appropriate in a workplace setting. They are best left for a "drinks after work" setting.
    – DreDre0623
    Mar 21, 2019 at 20:00
  • 4
    @DreDre0623 I've been there! I think we agree on the solution to the situation: keep that stuff out of the workplace, with this situation as a great example of why that's a good idea. I only want to push back a little bit on casting this as some sort of Machiavellian play on her part. Again, that's totally possible and consistent with what we've been told. But I wouldn't say it's obviously, definitely the case, and emphasizing that possibility shifts focus away from the major issue that people here (so far) seem to broadly agree with.
    – Upper_Case
    Mar 21, 2019 at 20:04

Is there anything I can do as a union rep to fight this?

Maybe don't make crude jokes while working? And actually follow the Code of Conduct? It seems like you guys did in fact broke the rules and either lied or avoided telling the truth to avoid punishment. In the future, be honest about what you did, then don't do it again. She could have been uncomfortable with the crude jokes and went along with it. A union isn't to protect you from crude behavior and to form a "club" to push out this whistleblower. This is everything that people don't like about unions when they form a group of "untouchables" who can get away with doing wrong.

Take ownership of what you did, and show others that wrong behaviors can be corrected so that everyone can enjoy work.

  • 3
    You missed the part where she was doing it too, eh? How many unions you been in? Mar 21, 2019 at 19:47
  • 2
    Maybe you missed my point too, eh? Saying "we got tricked" isn't a good excuse. You can easily push out a bad person by playing the rules. Follow every rule to the letter, right down to the T's and dot the I's. Show up on time, take very kindly, show them the how to, let them do it, etc, etc, You get what I mean? By using the union to retaliate against this person, well that's going to backfire.
    – Dan
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:49
  • We stopped work for an entire week following the rules, once. Malicious compliance is the way to go +1 But that's what unions are for, when you get a rat in who's trying to make life miserable, you deal with them Mar 21, 2019 at 19:51
  • 2
    This reads more like a rant than an answer. There is no indication that either the OP was directly involved, nor that the rule breakers lied. Mar 22, 2019 at 7:45
  • @P.Hopkinson Agreed, the person answering here has no clue how unions work or is answering from the perspective of the employer.
    – Xander
    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:51

Be aware that you may not be getting the entire story.

At least some of the guys lied to HR in order to get out from under the punishment. It's possible that one or more of them lied to you. Even if they didn't, it's near-guaranteed that their idea of what was going on was highly biased.

One day, one of the guys tried to show her an easier way to do her job and she got angry.

I can, right off the top of my head, think of a number of situations where the sort of guy who has a crude sense of humor by default might think that that was what he was doing, while a normal woman (even one who is able to go with that kind of humor) would find it extremely uncomfortable. If she's been going along to get along this entire time (entirely plausible) that might well make it worse. Sure, she might have handled it somewhat badly, but given that your first reaction to such a thing is to fight it, she apparently judged correctly that she couldn't go to her union rep.

Unfortunately, as you've positioned yourself thus far, you may not be able to get her side of the story. That said, it's pretty clear even from your description that you've generated what's referred to as a "hostile workplace", and that is, in fact, exactly what those rules are intended to stamp out. They are there to give you reason to change your behavior.

Now, you can probably get management to let these particular write-ups fall off the record after a while if the employees in question improve. Again, the rules are not there to punish you, they're there to make you change your behavior. If you react to this by trying to find ways to not have to change your behavior, then you are setting yourself up for a fight with the management that really doesn't have anything to do with this woman.

  • Sounds to me like she created the hostile workplace, by entrapping them into getting punished to further her career.
    – nick012000
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:50
  • 1
    @nick012000 not "hostile to her specifically", but "hostile to women in general". We have chunks of company that are notable for "brash sense of humor" and "crude language", along with a union rep who defends that behavior. That's the sort of thing they mean when they talk about a hostile workplace.
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 22, 2019 at 13:04

If it's in your union contract that a rep must be present when issues like this are addressed, and management pulled them in on that basis, you've got a cause for action in that regard. If the rat was engaged in the same behavior, then you can also push hard on selective enforcement of the shop standards.

Warn everyone else about the rat, and tell them to do their jobs to the book around her. Do not say anything to or about her that is not job related. It's not unheard of for people to act this way so that they can provoke retaliation, and then sue.

be professional, but stay clear, she already set up a bunch of guys, so don't give her any ammunition

Also talk to management about having the write-ups age out if everything's clean for six months, or a year.

Now, I know it's tempting, but leaving cheese around, making squeaking sounds when she walks by, et cet will only give her a chance to bring another action, get your guys in more trouble, and probably get rich from suing.

That said, don't cover for her. Step back, let her make her own mistakes, and if there are legitimate grievances she brings up, give her the representation she deserves, but no more than that.

Full disclosure:

Former member of:

  • Council 8
  • IAPE
  • CWA

and campaigned for United Electrical


Hows about not using unprofessional language and behaviors in a workplace? Especially in this day and age. Yes--perhaps she entrapped them. But the bottom line is they used that language, and they were honest in admitting it. This world is way to politically correct to do that today.

  • 2
    Are you saying that the only reason to not use objectionable language is to appear "politically correct"? I'm guessing the downvoters are taking it that way.
    – mcknz
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:35
  • 2
    ever worked in a union shop in shipping? Mar 21, 2019 at 20:28
  • 1
    I'm saying that when one uses objectionable language they shouldn't be surprised if someone takes offense. Just be professional and act in a reasonable manner at all times and it won't be an issue.
    – Keith
    Mar 21, 2019 at 21:36

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