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How to File a Grievance

When, how and why to file a grievance

Your union contract provides a mechanism for you to make sure your employer abides by the contract. That mechanism is the grievance procedure. When an employer violates a provision of the contract, union members have a right to file a grievance.

When to file a grievance

File a grievance whenever your employer violates a provision of the contract. If you are not sure about what the contract says on the matter, talk it over with your shop steward. Some examples of typical grievance issues are out-of-title work, overtime pay, and disciplinary procedures.

Not every gripe is a grievance—there are problems you may face that are not covered in the contract (for instance, your boss may be rude). Grievances are specifically about contract violations, but sometimes are more broadly defined. But even if your complaint doesn't meet the definition of a grievance, it doesn't mean you can't take action—you, your steward, other workers in your shop and the union together can organize and pressure the employer.

On the other hand, if the problem you are having is covered in the contract, then you should definitely file a grievance.

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How a grievance works

Shop stewards have copies of grievance forms. The first step in pursuing a grievance is to talk to your steward and fill out the form. The grievance should contain a clear statement of the issue and a reference to the relevant rule or contract section.

Local 2627 members work in mayoral and non-mayoral agencies. The grievance procedure for each contract is a little different. However, they all follow a general pattern that includes three or four steps.

THE INITIAL STEP is to take the written account of the grievance (the grievance form) to the immediate supervisor or department head. A grievance must be initiated within a certain number of days from when the event occurred that is being grieved; check your contract to make sure you know the deadlines that apply in your case. This step involves the member, the steward and immediate management. Management has a certain number of days to respond to the grievance. If they do not respond in that time frame, or if the member or the union is not satisfied with the response at this level, the grievance proceeds to the next step.

THE NEXT STEP or steps involves taking the case to higher levels of management. At this step, the staff rep usually gets involved. A hearing may be held, and witnesses may be called. Again, there is a specific number of days in which management must respond. If the member or the union is not satisfied, they may appeal the decision to the next step. Here, too, you must act within a certain number of days.

THE FINAL STEP in a grievance procedure is binding arbitration. Binding arbitration means that an impartial, outside party hears the case and makes a decision, which the employer, the worker and the union must obey. As part of the contract, the union and the employer have agreed in advance on individuals who will serve as arbiters.

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Why filing a grievance is important

Sometimes union members know the employer is violating the contract but they are hesitant to file a grievance because they think it's no big deal or they don't want to get in trouble. But contract violations are a big deal! And it's your right to grieve them; your boss cannot retaliate against you for filing a grievance. Whenever we let an employer violate the contract without challenging him, we are weakening the contract for all Local 2627 members—it sends a message that we will not enforce the contract. When we file grievances, we let employers know that we take the contract seriously and we will make them take it seriously, too. Sometimes, just knowing union members will enforce their rights acts as a deterrent, and management will think twice before violating the contract.

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