I am a unionized employee and my union is not helping me. What can I do?

Your union is supposed to be your first line of defense in the event of any employment issues. The first thing you should do is find your collective bargaining agreement with your union, which outlines the conditions of your employment, such as hours, wages and overtime. It should also outline what steps you can take if your employer breaches the agreement. Your union is also bound to a duty of fair representation, which means they cannot make arbitrary, discriminatory or bad faith decisions about representing you. They are obligated to listen to your complaint and discuss it with you, consider what you want and make a fair and honest decision about what action to take.

However, your union does not have to agree with you. They don’t have to pursue each case or even do a particularly good job at representing you. Most of the time, you cannot simply hire your own lawyer and take your employer to court. However, in cases such as human rights violations, you should be able to get private representation and file a human rights application.

Even if you cannot hire private representation, independent legal counsel can help you to navigate your relationship with your union so as to encourage better representation for you. It is always best to be proactive and stay aware of your rights and obligations. Doing so allows you to better advocate for yourself and ensure a fair and just result.