Our contract guarantees our wages and benefits. But just as important, it safeguards our rights. That is why our grievance process is so important. It’s up to us as union members to ensure that grievances are handled correctly, because when they are, we protect the membership and reduce management abuses.
New and veteran stewards attended a training session in June at union HQ to sharpen their grievance handling skills. Stewards and union officers exchanged experiences and discussed best practices on investigating, writing and processing grievances. Stewards are our union’s frontline. When Stewards take the proper steps and build strong cases, the odds are much better of resolving it informally and of winning should the case advance through the grievance process.
Whether a steward is handling a discipline or non-disciplinary case, careful and accurate note taking is always the basis of a strong grievance.
When a steward becomes aware of a violation of complaint and begins an investigation, it is important to carefully document the “5 W’s”:
- WHO: Who was involved in the grievance? Include members and management involved.
- WHAT: What is the grievant’s story? What is management’s position? What did witnesses say?
- WHEN: When did the incident or condition occur? Get dates and times as accurately as possible.
- WHERE: Where did the grievance take place?
- WHY: Why is this a grievance? What has been violated? The contract? Federal, state, municipal laws? Past practice? Workers’ rights? Previous ruling or awards?
For discipline cases (those involving terminations, suspensions or warnings), carefully listen to the employer’s case at the initial disciplinary hearing. Ask questions and keep good notes using the Steward’s Low Level Hearing Report form for DISCIPLINE CASES. (link to form). Turn in all notes and evidence from the initial disciplinary hearing to your Business Agent.