In late July, the union was informed that a manager told instructors and supervisors at the Border Patrol Academy (BPA) that trainees did not have any “union representation” until they were out of their probationary period. They were also told that when trainees were presented with their Weingarten rights, it was just a “training opportunity” for what they would experience after probation.
Well, this is obviously the exact opposite of the truth, so we addressed the issue with BPA leadership, who were extremely receptive and took steps to fix the issue. Managers, supervisors, and instructors should all now be aware that trainees do indeed have access to union representation and Weingarten rights, even while a trainee and on probation.
Ultimately, the only real difference between probationary employees and those not on probation is that they only have access to statutory appeals in the event they are removed from the agency. This means we generally cannot file a grievance and advance it to arbitration if they are removed. Similarly, if a trainee cannot pass their exams or training, there is nothing the union can do. However, for run-of-the-mill incidents like lost property or other similar incidents, including the simple writing of a memo, the union absolutely can represent a trainee at the BPA or a trainee in the field.
We appreciate Chief Owens’ efforts to ensure employees at the academy are afforded their full rights under law.