• Resources for Shop Stewards
    Updated On: Aug 24, 2015

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    Your right to Engage in Union Activity

    When meeting with management to perform his or her union duties, the stewards is afforded the full protections of the National Labor Relations Act. (Note: All stewards are advised to review their contracts and consult with local leaders to see if there are any limitations on their rights to engage in union activity. For example, some collective bargaining agreements limit the time during which a steward can perform union duties.)

    For example, stewards and other union representatives cannot be punished or discriminated against because of their union activity, for filing grievances, conducting union business at the appropriate time described in the contract, or raising workplace issues with members of management. They cannot be punished for serving on a bargaining committee or distributing union literature at the appropriate time, if limited by contract. Supervisors may not:

    • Supervise a steward more closely than other workers
    • Assign the steward more difficult work or work in a remote location with the intention of punishing or isolating that steward
    • Deny the steward pay increases or promotional opportunities
    • Deny the steward overtime
    • Enforce work rules more strictly against the Teamster steward

    If management is found to engage in any of the above activities, or in similar kinds of actions that intend to punish stewards for union activity, you should contact your Business Agent immediately. You may decide to file a grievance or, in recurring or serious situations, a charge with the labor board.

    More information: Weingarten Rights, Sexual Harassment

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    7 Tips for Writing a Grievance

    1. Limit statements to the basic facts. The purpose of the written grievance is to trigger the formal steps of the grievance process and notify the employer of the basic facts, alleged violation and the requested remedy. Limit the grievance to those essentials by using the "Six W's" as a guide.
    2. Leave out arguments, evidence and justifications. Arguing the merits of the case is reserved for face-to-face meetings with the employer. Disclosing this information in the written grievance could give the employer an edge in preparing a case against the union.
    3. If required, refer to all contract violations. If your contract requires including reference to contract language, include all contract provisions that may be applicable to this particular grievance. You can use the phrase "violates the contract, including but not limited to Article ____." This may allow you to add additional violations of the agreement later.
    4. State the union's positions. In clear, affirmative statements, express the union's position, e.g., "Mary smith was unjustly discharged." Avoid using phrases such as, "I think" or "Mary believes."
    5. State a full, possible remedy. The purpose of the grievance procedure is to "make the grievant whole" by putting the worker in the same position he/she would have been in had the injustice not occurred. If a worker has been discharged, ask that he/she be made whole: immediate reinstatement with full back pay and all rights, privileges and benefits restored, and the entire matter expunged from his/her record. This makes it possible for the grievant to receive his/her job back, plus back pay, seniority, vacation time, fringe benefits, etc. Remember, you get only what you ask for.
    6. Consult with the grievant. Go over the written grievance with the worker(s) on whose behalf the grievance is being filed, explain what the requested remedy is and make certain the grievant fully understands.
    7. Have the grievant sign the grievance form. This guarantees that the grievant has seen and read the grievance and provides legal protection for the union when determining the final settlement of the grievance. The exception is that if the grievance does not concern discipline, the steward may sign a grievance on behalf of the union in order to stop the union. 

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    The Six W's of Grievance Handling

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    1. WHO- Who is involved? This might include the member's full name, employee's number, department, job classification, pay rate, shift and seniority date(s) or other information for all involved.                                  

    2. WHEN- When did it occur? Try to identify the specific date, time or shift an incident took place. Or, you might want to establish a chronology of events.                                     

    3. WHERE- Where did it occur? The exact location where the incident occurred, on or off employer premises.

    4. WHY- Why is this a grievance? Contract language, work rules, policies or procedures, or laws that were violated.

    5. WHAT- What kind of settlement do we want? What does the grievant want? What is needed to restore the worker to the same position if the injustice had not occurred? For example, if an employee was discharged, the demands for settlement might be reinstatement with back pay and benefits.

    6. WITNESSES- Were there any witnesses? Reach out to the individuals who may have seen or heard what took place.

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    Investigation Checklist

    Good investigation at the early stages of a grievance can lay the foundation for your case. Poor or sloppy investigation can harm your case because facts not recorded early tend not to be recorded at all.

    Investigate at the first step as if the grievance will go to arbitration. A good investigation will expedite settlement. A good investigation will help build your confidence.

    This checklist will assist you in completing a good grievance investigation.

    ___   Interview the grievant. Listen carefully to his/her story.

    ___   Have grievant write his/her rebuttal to discipline (if appropriate).

    ___   Interview grievant's co-workers.

    ___   Interview the witnesses and management, asking the Six W's. Get a written, signed statement from witnesses.

    ___   Keep written records of all interviews.

    ___   Request copy of personnel file (if disciplinary grievance).

    ___   Request any other management records needed (personnel policies, payroll records, seniority list, attendance records, etc.).

    ___   Determine if the problem affects others in the workplace.

    ___   Determine if this is one of the five violations and the remedy desired.

    ___   Determine if filing a grievance is the best strategy for precedents.

    ___   Check the experience of other stewards in similar cases.

    ___   Seek advice, if needed, from other union representatives.

    ___   Review the case with the grievant.

    ___   Anticipate and prepare for management's arguments.

    ___   Outline your presentation in writing.

    ___   Inform other workers about the issue and organize support activities for the grievance.

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    Information You Can Request From The Employer

    • Accident Records
    • Attendance Records
    • Bargaining Notes
    • Company Memos
    • Contracts
    • Correspondence
    • Disciplinary Records
    • Equipment Specifications
    • Evaluations
    • Inspection Records
    • Insurance Policies
    • Interview Notes
    • Job Assignment Records
    • Job Descriptions
    • Material Records
    • Payroll Records
    • Performance Reviews
    • Personnel Files
    • Photographs
    • Reports and Studies
    • Salary and Bonus Records
    • Seniority Lists
    • Supervisors Notes
    • Time Study Records
    • Training Manuals
    • Videotapes


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