Wants Backpay for All

I filed a grievance demanding that the company pay “all affected workers” who had been denied holiday pay. My business agent told me the grievance would only cover the members who personally signed it. I say he’s full of it. Who’s right?

–Teamster Steward

Dear Steward,

You’re right. And it’s not a close call.

If your BA was right, then management could get away with violating an employee’s rights every time, as long as they could intimidate him or her out of signing a grievance. That would make for a pretty toothless grievance procedure.

The contract is an agreement between management and our union—not between management and individual workers. The grievance procedure is a tool that gives the union the right to protest and resolve violations of the contract by management.

As a steward, it’s especially your job to police the contract and file grievances when management violates members’ rights. But any Teamster can file a grievance on behalf of themselves or other employees.

Tactically, it can be a good idea to get a large number of members to sign a grievance. Group grievances are a personal favorite of the Troublemaker. I use them to send management the message that lots of members are concerned about a problem and we want it resolved.

But even when I’m filing a group grievance, I use the language “all affected employees” to make sure that the grievance covers everyone, not just the members who signed it.

As always, the The Legal Rights of Union Stewards by labor attorney Robert Schwartz is a useful source of info on this issue. You can order a copy from TDU.

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