Tips for Writing Grievances

Writing an effective grievance is the first step to winning and the foundation for your case.

Avoid common mistakes with these Teamster Grievance Writing Tips.

Just the Facts.

A rule of thumb is to keep your grievance short, sweet and to the point. Explain the basic problem, indicate which contract or other violations have occurred, and lay out how management needs to fix the problem.

Adding your arguments, evidence and justifications reveals your hand to management and allows them to be better prepared to defeat your position. Save your arguments for when you present your grievance to management.

Take 'Em One at a Time.

There may be a lot of problems going on at once. Each grievance should focus on a specific contract violation and what you want done about it. If management is violating the contract in multiple ways, file multiple grievances. But take each issue one at a time.

Use Catch-Phrases to Cover Yourself.

Due to time constraints there isn't always time to do a full investigation before you file your grievance. Using flexible language will allow you to avoid getting your grievance tossed out on a technicality.

When you write your grievance use the expression, "Management violated contract articles including but not limited to Article 4, Section 2." By adding "including but not limited to," you keep the door open if, later on, you need to add additional articles that were violated. When referring to the date of the violation, write "On or about July 3" in case you're a little off.

Tell 'Em What You're After.

The grievance should tell us what happened, but also needs to be clear about what we want management to do about it. This is called the remedy.

Don't forget to ask for backpay and benefit contributions where appropriate. Include the phrase "Make the grievant whole in every way" in your remedy to cover anything you might have left out.

Pay Attention to Deadlines.

Stay on top of the time limits. The easiest and most frustrating way to lose a grievance is for failing to make the deadline for filing or appealing. The grievance section in your contract spells out the steps in your grievance procedure and the deadline for each one.

Power in Numbers.

Are you grieving an issue that affects a lot of members? A good tactic for building unity and putting pressure on management to resolve the issue is to file a group grievance.

Write up the grievance, and then circulate it among members like a petition. A list of signatures sends management the message that this is a serious problem, not an isolated complaint.

Use this as an opportunity to educate people on the issue. Pass out leaflets before and/or after shifts. Print out stickers. If you need to elevate your tactics later on (like calling a rally), it's easier to get members involved when they've already been made aware of the issue.

A good strategy for a successful group grievance is to collect signatures from the members who feel strongly about the issue. That way when you approach less outspoken members they are more likely to sign. You should still include the language "all affected employees" to ensure that no one gets left out of the remedy.

Group grievances empower members by getting them involved. They also send a clear message of unity to the company.

Dealing with the Run-Around.

What if management or your Business Agent doesn't respond to the grievance?

The first key is to create a paper trail. When you turn in a grievance to management, write down the date and who the grievance was turned into. Give one copy to management and one to the union. And keep a copy of course!

If management doesn't respond to your grievance in a timely way, don't let them stall. Go to the office with your steward to discuss the grievance. If management puts you off ("It's not a good time"), try to make them set up a specific meeting time later.

In the meantime, make sure you've done a complete investigation. Gather evidence and witnesses and make sure you have all your facts and arguments down.

If management keeps trying to dodge you, file another grievance on their failure to respond. Date and document that one too.

Consider adding an information request to the mix so the company has to produce documents and records. If they ignore that, the union can follow up with an unfair labor practice charge for failing to comply with the information request.

Your goal is to make ignoring your grievance more painful for the supervisor than resolving it.

The most effective solution—assuming your grievance has merit, but is getting ignored—is to get others involved.

Bring up the issue at every meeting on the job: safety, pre-shift, etc. Don't let the company forget about it and keep the members informed about the status of the grievance. Make it as difficult to ignore as possible.

The best way to get an unresponsive BA to take on a grievance is to start with a good case. Document your facts and gather evidence or witnesses to support your grievance.

Show your BA that other members care. One way to do that is to approach your BA with other members when you hand in the grievance. Another way is to file a group grievance.

If necessary, organize a group of people to attend the next local union meeting to make sure the issue gets heard. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Grievance Resources from TDU

Grievances: Using the Grievance Procedure to Defend Rights and Build Power

The mechanics of the grievance procedure and organizing tips to involve members.

The Union Steward's Complete Guide

The indispensable survival manual for labor's frontline troops. This guide covers:

  • Grievance basics
  • Presenting grievances
  • Discipline
  • Health and safety
  • The workplace and the law
  • Saving your sanity
  • And much more
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