How Do I Get More Support for My Grievances?

If I’m a steward, do I have the right to demand that another steward sign my grievance? Does that come under “duty of fair representation?”

Many times, I’ve asked other stewards to sign off on big grievances with me, because I think the union would be more effective if we worked together to attack difficult managers and problems at the workplace. It’s also good to have a witness at the meeting. I’m usually faced with a “do-it-yourself” attitude. Yes, I’m a steward, but I’m already in danger of retaliation from a manager that seems eager to fire me. I’m constantly wondering what will happen if I stick my neck out any further with grievances.

- Lots of grief but no support

Dear Grievant,

You’re right when you say our union is more effective when “we work together to attack difficult managers and problems at the workplace.”

The Troublemaker’s advice to you is to forget about a Duty of Fair Representation charge (DFR). Follow your own advice about taking a group approach.

Your fellow stewards aren’t the only ones who can co-sign a big grievance. Any Teamster can sign off on a grievance. When the Troublemaker has a big issue in the shop, one of the main tactics I use is a “group grievance.” I write up the grievance and then circulate it like a petition. The signatures send a message to management (and to my BA when he needs it) that this is a high priority issue, not just a gripe.

I don’t pull the trigger on this tactic every time there’s a grievance. I save it for big problems. It’s easier to get people to put their John Hancock down if they have a stake in the problem.

I always start by collecting the signatures of strong (or pissed off) members. By the time I ask members who are more gun-shy, there are already a few signatures. When I say, “Look everybody’s signing as a show of unity,” that’s usually enough to do the trick.

If you build some momentum with the signatures, those other stewards might just get on board. It might not hurt to have another member or two with you when you ask them to sign.

Group grievances will take more legwork but sometimes are worth it. DFR charges are sometimes necessary but usually ineffective. Charges aren’t going to build union solidarity or win you grievances.

Keep your eyes on the prize and organize. TDU can help. You should join (if you haven’t). Like you said, we’re more effective when we work together.

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