Members : How to File a Grievance

How to File a Grievance

Not only does your union contract provide you with numerous rights, it also provides you with a process to use if one of your contractual rights is violated — the grievance procedure.

The dictionary defines the word "grievance" as: a feeling of having been treated unfairly; a reason for complaining or being unhappy with a situation; a statement in which you say you are unhappy or not satisfied with something.

However, under the terms of your union contract, you must be more than dissatisfied or unhappy with a situation in order to have a valid grievance. Union members have a grievance when management violates one of their contractual rights. Other situations are problems that the union can help you address outside of the grievance procedure. 

If you believe one of your contractual rights has been violated, you should immediately contact your union steward. (Unless you have been terminated. In that case, contact your union representative immediately.) A listing of all union stewards can be found on your union bulletin board. Your steward is trained in all aspects of the union contract and can verify if your situation qualifies as a grievance. Sometimes stewards will need to research the situation or consult their union representative to determine if a contract violation occurred.

If the steward finds your rights were violated, the first thing he or she will do is ask management to correct the situation. In most cases, the steward is able to work with management to resolve the situation without formally filing a grievance. If management refuses to fix the problem, the steward will file a Step 1 Grievance Form and present it to management. At this time, the steward may conduct a more extensive investigation of the facts to be fully prepared for the Step 1 grievance meeting with management and the member involved (also known as the grievant.)

Most grievances are settled at this first step in the grievance procedure. However, if the union and management are unable to reach an agreement, the grievance will advance to the next step in the grievance procedure with the filing of a step 2 grievance form. At this point the union representative will get involved, possibly conducting his or her own investigation, and holding the step two grievance meeting with management, the union steward and the grievant.

After the step 2 meeting, most grievances are either settled or discontinued by the union for lack of merit. If the union believes an unsettled grievance has merit, the case may go to arbitration where a third party (called an arbitrator) will make a legally binding decision on the case. Arbitrations are conducted by attorneys and can take several months to process. 

There are time limits on filing grievances (most commonly, you have 10 days, but check your contract or with your steward to be sure). It's best to file your grievance as soon as possible after you've been disciplined. If you wait too long, you may no longer have a right to file a grievance.

Most union members never need to file a grievance because management knows they will be held accountable if they violate an employee's contractual rights. However, the grievance process is an invaluable resource when needed.

You can locate your union representative here.