Tackling workplace bullying, one workplace at a time

Sometimes it’s the little victories that keep you going.

Almost a year ago, a union member for a public library asked me for suggested contract language to cover workplace bullying and abusive supervision. I sent her the draft that I’ve circulated to other union activists who have contacted me.

Out of the blue, she recently e-mailed me to say that some of the suggested contract language had been incorporated into their employee handbook and that an individual who had engaged in workplace bullying was eased out of his position. She added:

Our situation is much improved and awareness of workplace bullying has increased among staff, management, and library trustees.

Their original goal was to get some of this language into their collective bargaining agreement. Having been thwarted on that, they persevered and got it into their employee handbook. It’s a start, and this note shows that their efforts have had an impact.



If you’d like a copy of the suggested contract language, please send me an e-mail with your name, specific union local, and your position with the union to dyamada@suffolk.edu. It’s based on the Healthy Workplace Bill, the anti-bullying legislation I authored that is serving as the template for law reform efforts across the country.

9 responses

  1. David, I agree that putting the language in negotiated agreements is an excellent way to begin eliminating bullies in the workplace. It gives the affected individual recourse to litigation which can make them whole. It demonstrates a joint commitment to correcting the problem. By agreeing to contract language; the employer recognizes the problem and seeks to fix it. By doing so, we begin the social change that has to begin with the grass roots.

  2. I work in human services and there is not a union represenitng me or any other employee at the workplace I am eployed at, which is an at-will employer.. How can someone who is not connected to a union at one’s current employment site seek out an appropriate union to represent that person?

    Is that an option? Thank you.

    • Under our labor laws, unions do not represent individuals who are not union members. They represent groups of workers — known as collective bargaining units — who by a majority vote have opted for union representation.

      • By their nature, unions are set up for groups of individuals to elect to join. I don’t know of any human services workers union that enrolls individuals. The Freelancers Union actively seeks out individuals who are working independently, but they don’t engage in representation of individuals in their workplaces.

  3. I work in the field of education in Massachusetts.
    I have been a victim of ongoing bullying.
    Accused of things that I did not say, doing things that I did not do, etc.
    There are teachers throughout the United States who have committed suicide as well as other walks of life, because of bullying.
    25% of our workplaces have bullying?
    If this was a contagious disease, the state of Massachusetts would shut down, employees would be sent home.
    The fact is that bullies can kill their victims slowly, with malice.
    Workplaces can become battlefields.
    This has to be stopped, there is no time for third readings of the bill.
    Throughout Massachusetts, there are people physically and emotionally ill that they have to go back to work today, on Sunday.
    Everyone, write to your representatives, post, do whatever you have to in order to get this bill passed.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly, Tomas. Our dedicated work force deserves far more protection than what we are being provided.

      Gosh, not only are individuals impacted, their families are, as well. The bullying that I have endured over the past eight and half years has had a significant and detrimental impact upon my family.

      And yet, with the economy as it is, I do need the financial sustenance that my current position affords me.

      However, employees should not have to choose between maintaining a financial household and one’s family’s and one’s self emotional well-being and peace of mind.

      So true, these environments become battegrounds.

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