The following are some basic tips on grievance writing.
Most of this advise applies to all grievance writing but it is important
to check with your union local and its grievance committee to see if local policy
requires some deviation from these suggestions.
One of the most difficult jobs of any
union representative is writing a grievance.
The collective bargaining agreement and National Labor Relation Act allow for a steward or representative to write the
grievance on behalf of the member. By
having the steward write the grievance, the member can be better represented and the
process used effectively to build solidarity in the local union.
Many members do not
know their rights and can be intimidated in the grievance meeting.
The union as policy should be present at every grievance meeting.
Some contracts provide for a meet and discuss with
management before the grievance is reduced to writing.
This meeting may be a first step in your grievance procedure, an informal
pre-first step, or a monthly meeting to resolve issues.
If you can settle the issue at this level so much the better.
But most grievances are put into the process with a form.
YOUR GRIEVANCE FORM
standardized form in multiple copies. The multiple
copies enable the local union to track the grievance if it is appealed.
Every grievance form has three parts. There is the information section which asks who the grievant
is and some basic information such as employee identification number, work location,
department, region and immediate supervisor.
The second section usually asks for a statement of
grievance. Here is where the
steward explains what the grievance is with an accurate explanation.
And, there is a section for the remedy.
There are other lines for the grievant’s
and union representative's signature, the date, as well as the date received by
the company representative or the immediate supervisor.
You must be timely in the presentation of your grievance.
That means you should file it within the proper amount of time that is
stipulated in our contract. Be
careful of contract language. Working
days and calendar days are different. Filing
after the knowledge of the occurrence is different from having to file after the
date of the incident.
When you write the grievance, limit the statement to basic
information. Provide only enough
information to identify the grievance so that management understands what the
basic problem is, what violations have occurred and how the problem should be
You are not obligated to tell management in a grievance all
of the results of your investigation. Don’t
do their work for them.
Omit the union’s arguments, evidence and justification
for it position. You should save
that for the grievance meeting. You
don’t need to tip your hand before you get to that grievance meeting.
Avoid personal remarks.
State the position of the union not opinions. Opinion words include “I think,” or “I believe.”
When stating why there is a grievance use the phrase
“management’s action is in violation of the contract including Article…
Section… and …” Allow for the
possibility that there could be other violations.
You need a remedy in every grievance.
By filing a grievance you are determined that management make right an
injustice. Management might not give
you anything. You’ve got to tell
them what is necessary to remedy the violation.
When you write your remedy, don’t limit it.
In grievances that involve money, benefits, or protests of discipline,
use the phrase “the grievant should be made whole in every way including . .
.” Then ask for what you want.
The general phrase “made whole in every way,” means that the grievant should receive any and all losses due to management’s action. The word “including” allows you to add specific remedies that are expected to be fulfilled by the company.
Just because you use the phrase “made whole in every way,” does not mean that the company or even an arbitrator will search out the specific rights and remedies the company has denied your grievant. It is up to you to list in writing any remedies within the context of the original grievance.
Here are eight practices to follow to ensure that your written grievances have the desired effect to resolve and remedy a violation:
Some of contract language is very specific and indicates what the grievant is entitled to. This language should be seen as a strength, not a weakness. It means that you will have to work with the grievant in getting the facts down on paper. It also keeps the member as a direct participant in the grievance process and this strengthens the union.
Stay timely. Do not miss
your time limits. Whatever the
issue, never lose out because you missed the time limits set up by your
a Grievance (Examples)
“The grievant, Bill Brown, was
abused and discriminated against by the supervisor, and the union has three
witnesses to this treatment, in addition to work records….”
“On or about July 15, 1994, the
grievant, Bill Brown, was treated unfairly by supervision in assigning work,
including Article 7: Rotation of
As in the above example, in stating the “why” grounds
for the grievance, do not limit the union position to a single section of the
Example: Better than:
“The foreman’s action violates Section 12 of the contract….”
“Violations of Article 12,
Rotation of Work Assignments, and any other that may apply.”
Cover yourself when stating specifics, especially in cases
where technicalities have been used in the past to deny grievances.
Example: Better than:
“On January 13th and 26th, and February 2nd, the grievant was bypassed in selecting workers for overtime. . . .”
Would Be: (in a case where there could be an error on one of the dates):
“On or about January 13th……”
Grievants have been sold short by poorly phrased remedies
(also known as request for settlement). In
stating your demand (the requested remedy), do not ask for anything less than
full compensation for the grievant. Better
still, use a phrase such as “made whole.”
“The union demands that the
grievant be made whole including full back pay and reinstatement with no loss of
Do not get personal. You
are representing the union both in person and through the written grievance –
Thoroughly discuss the grievance with the grievant.
Explain what you are doing. Explain
the requested remedy and get the member’s full understanding and agreement.
Have the member sign the grievance.
Do not wait for the grievant and/or steward to come to you
with questions regarding the grievance. Keep
the grievant and steward posted on each action.
Consult with other representative or officer, etc., Do not
be afraid to ask for help or seek another opinion.
Prepare grievances on the assumption that they are going to arbitration. Arbitration is part of the grievance process.