With bargaining over and a four-year contract in place, it’s a good time to start having some discussions about topics of general interest to union members. Today’s article is inspired by a conversation I had with a member last week. As always, questions and comments are welcome.
What Is a Grievance?
There are lots of reasons why you might contact Local 328. I often hear members refer to any complaint or problem with which the union is involved as a “grievance.” That’s not accurate, however — a grievance is a specific kind of complaint.
A grievance is formal notice served on the employer that the contract has been violated. A grievance is usually filed on an official grievance form and transmitted by the union steward to the employer by email or, occasionally, in person. A grievance must contain three things:
- A specific citation of an article in the union contract that has been violated.
- A description of the violation/a statement of facts.
- A request for remedy -– what will it take to fix the problem?
Let’s say you believe you were not asked to work some overtime you were entitled to and instead the overtime was given to a less senior employee. What would a grievance form include in this case?
- Your basic contact/identifying information, your department, your position and your supervisor’s contact information.
- A citation of “Article 9.1.4” of the collective-bargaining agreement
- A short statement of facts: “Last week, on July 27, I was on duty and available for overtime work. I was not informed overtime was available, nor was I offered overtime work. The supervisor did offer four hours of overtime to Sam Smith, who, based on seniority, should not have been offered it before I was.”
- A request for remedy: “I should be paid four hours at time-and-one- half.”
Grievances can only ask for, and be awarded, remedies that make an employee whole for what s/he would have received had the contract been followed. There are no punitive damages; there are no apologies required.
Grievances MUST be filed on time. You have 21 days from the time you knew or should have known that the contract was violated to file. If you file late, you lose out — no do-overs.
Leaving a message on the union’s phone line or entering your case online DOES NOT count as having filed a grievance. The grievance is not filed until it is transmitted to the employer, so you must leave enough time for people to do their work. Leaving your message on day 20 or 21 is not a good strategy.
How Do You File a Grievance?
First, contact the steward program. You can do this by calling (503) 239-9858 ext. 132 and leaving a message or by going to the eZone, logging in, going to the Member menu, clicking on Get Union Assistance and following the prompts.
A steward will contact you to start the process. Just because you have entered a case in the eZone doesn’t mean a grievance has been filed. Filing is the next step in the process. That’s why it’s important to contact the union again if a steward hasn’t contacted you within a day or two. Once a steward gets in touch with you, s/he will walk you through the rest of the process.
There are lots of reasons, other than grievances, why you might contact the union. We will discuss some of them in future articles.