Health Care Steward News - June 2015

Gary Hawkins leads co-workers and community allies in chants on the picket line during an informational outside MultiCare's Tacoma General Hospital, where our union continues to fight for a fair contract. 


In November 2012, Washington state voters decriminalized recreational marijuana use.

The law voters enacted protects recreational users and state-licensed dispensaries from facing state prosecution. It does not provide protections for employees against drug testing and discipline resulting from a drug test. It also does not protect recreational marijuana users from federal charges, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

 While the state law does not shield recreational pot users from employer discipline, your union contract might. If you or a co-worker is required to take a drug test, please remember the following:

  • Marijuana leaves the body slowly. While there is still much scientific debate as to the specific length of time cannabis chemicals remain in the body, most experts agree they leave the body slowly. The National Drug Court Institute reports detectable levels of THC - the active chemical in cannabis products - can remain in a urine sample for 30 days or longer after initial use. Each time a person uses a cannabis product, the 30-day (or more) period starts again.
  • Employers can legally require that employees take a drug test as a condition of employment and can discipline them for failing one. Nothing in the law protects employees from drug test or discipline in the case of a failed drug test. However, some union contracts may protect against you taking one. You can view your contract here to see what it's drug testing policy is.
  • Contract language on drug tests varies. There is no "one-size-fits-all" rule for drug testing in our contracts. Each one is different. Many of our contracts have clauses dealing with drug testing; others do not. Some contracts prohibit drugs tests while others state that refusing one is can result in immediate termination. You can view your contract here to see what it's drug testing policy is.
  •  You have the right to contact Union Representation before a drug test! Drug tests can result in discipline. Consequently, you have the right to have union representation present at your test. If you or a co-worker are asked to take a drug test and are afraid you may not pass, contact your Union Representative immediately at 1.800.732.1188.
  • Our Union's Advice: If in doubt, request to speak with your Union Rep before you take the test. Because many of our contracts approach drug testing differently, our union recommends that employees who are asked to take a drug test request to speak with their Union Representative and then to comply with the drug test. Our union can file a grievance against discipline that results from a failed drug test. A grievance against a refusal to take drug test is much harder to win.

2015 Stewards Conference

Together we are building our union. Stewards are the workplace leaders that help make it happen. Our Stewards Conference is the largest event of the year for UFCW 21. Stewards gather to deepen relationships, meet new friends, build skills and learn from each other. Together, we’ll make 2015 the largest ever. 

Keynote Speaker: Chef Jeff Henderson

Award-winning chef, best selling author, and television host Chef Jeff Henderson shares the story of how he turned his life around with audiences across America to empower others by encouraging them to recognize their strengths. At our 2015 Stewards Conference, Chef Jeff will  discuss how our own stories can serve as powerful tools to help Stewards lead the way. 

Contact your Union Rep to reserve your space or take a moment to RSVP online now.


Whether it's during a bargain or during a shift, Stewards help members learn their rights and understand our contracts and our bargaining team's proposals. As some employers across the state turn to aggressive tactics to discourage us from participating in our union, that role has become more important than ever.

Our co-workers rely on us as a resource, especially during bargaining. Here are three easy ways you can help keep your co-workers informed during negotiations.

1.      Know Your Rep. Our Union Representatives work closely to support our Union Member Bargaining Team. If a member has a specific question, don't hesitate to reach out and ask your Rep. You can find out who your Rep is and view your contract here.

2.      Ask for Extras. Request a few extra bargaining updates from your Rep and put them on your Union Bulletin Board. You can view (and print) copies of your most recent Bargaining Update here.

3.      Check the Website. Our union's website has just been completely redesigned and is a great resource. You can learn your rights at work, get your Reps contact information or read the latest update. The new website is easier to read on your phone, so you can find the information you need more quickly.


Always remember, Federal and State Laws - as well as our contracts - protect our right to participate in our union! Any attempt by Management to harass, intimidate or impede a person from participating in a reasonable union action is illegal.

While Management can answer questions about contracts and bargaining when employees ask, they cannot engage in coercion, threats, or surveillance of union-related activity.  While Management can meet with employees, they cannot ask them who supports or does not support the union.

If you see any behavior that raises your eyebrows, follow these three steps help stop it.

1.      Hear something? See something? Say something.  If you see or hear something from a co-worker about Management that doesn't seem right, contact your Union Representative as soon as possible. You can contact our union toll free at 1.800.732.1188.

2.      Ask questions. When a co-worker comes to you with a concern, ask questions and gather as much information as possible. It's important to know the Five Ws: WhoWhatWhereWhen and Why. You can get a copy of our union's Grievance Investigation Worksheet here.

3.      Write it down to get it right. Evidence is everything. Anytime you have a concern, write down everything you can (the Five Ws) and give it to your Rep. Having a clear record  is critical to making our case later.


Every year, workers leave hundreds of millions of dollars in wages they should have been paid on the table.

The cause? Missed meal and rest breaks.

While the physical and mental benefits of taking a full, uninterrupted break - benefits such as improved energy and reduced stress - are apparent, the cumulative financial toll a missed or truncated break has is easier to overlook. But that doesn't make it any less significant.

It has long been a settled fact that missed meal and rest breaks should be reported on an employee's time card. A recent arbitration win at Everett's Providence Regional Medical Center reaffirmed that.

In his decision, the independent arbitrator ruled that when an employee misses a meal or rest breaks, that employee is entitled to paid for those breaks at 1.5 times the normal rate of pay ("time-and-a-half").

This means that every time our co-workers or ourselves don't report a missed break, we are leaving money on the table

Many people work through a break because there is not enough staff to cover if they go on break. Ironically, skipping breaks only encourages the employers' short staffing behavior.

By reporting our missed breaks, we highlight the impact of staffing shortages and receive fair compensation for our work.

If you or a co-worker misses a meal or rest break, report it on your time card or to your supervisor. If you or a co-worker are reporting your missed breaks but not being fairly paid at 1.5 times your normal hourly rate (also know as "time-and-a-half"), document the occurrences, save your pay stub, and contact your Union Rep.  

UFCW 21 Summer Picnics

Join co-workers and colleagues and celebrate all that summer has to offer! Our union's annual picnic promises great food, great company and great memories for you and your family. 

Click here to find the location and date of the picnic nearest you.