Don’t blame unions for defending accused members. It’s their job | Opinion – lehighvalleylive.com

By Ron Pizarie

I was a union president for nine years at the former ITT Electron Tube Division manufacturing plant in Palmer Towsnhip. Our product was mostly military defense systems.

It distresses me to see police unions being bad-mouthed for representing accused officers. The fact is, union members pay dues for representation by their union. Even if the illegal, improper action is documented by video, the union has an obligation — not to act as judge and jury, but as defense attorney, if the accused files a grievance. That is an important distinction. Some contracts have mandatory representation even if the member does not file a grievance. Some stipulate a specific time frame for a grievance to be filed.

The union is not unlike a defense attorney appointed by the government or hired by the defendant. The union’s job is to make sure the accused gets a fair and impartial hearing. Indeed, if the union didn’t represent a grievant, it could be sued for not representing a dues-paying member.

I had a number of termination cases. Some were resolved internally, some went to arbitration. Some were won, some were lost by the union.

Unions are also blamed for contract language which seems to favor the union member. This happens with school teachers all the time. But everyone must realize that every word in a union contract was agreed to by both parties in negotiations.

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