Truth About Grievance Procedures

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A grievance is defined as a complaint involving the interpretation or application of any of the provisions of the contract, or a complaint that an employee(s) has been unfairly treated.

Whenever a grievance arises, the parties resolve the matter by utilizing a grievance procedure.  This procedure allows the parties to sit down together as equals to try to remedy the situation. There are usually three or four “steps” (meetings) involving progressively higher level union and management personnel. If the parties reach an impasse, (cannot reach an agreement) at any step then the issue goes to a higher level up to and including a neutral arbitrator who acts as judge and jury and issues a legally binding ruling.

Union members enjoy many benefits and privileges that are not afforded to nonunion employees. One of the most important benefits is access to a grievance procedure.
One of the most important benefits is access to a grievance procedure.
So, does a union limit me from speaking directly with my management?

No, the first provision in the law quoted below permits employees or groups of employees to present problems or grievances without going through the union.  The second provision protects the union and other employees by making sure the adjustment is consistent with the contract and is fair to other employees.

Adjusting Grievances: One of the least understood parts of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is Section 9(a).  This section is important enough to be quoted in full:

“Representatives designated or selected for the purpose of collective bargaining by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such purposes, shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees in such unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment:  Provided,  That any individual employee or a group of employees shall have the right at any time to present their grievances to their employer and to have such grievances adjusted, without  the intervention of the bargaining representative, as long as the adjustment is not inconsistent with the terms of a collective-bargaining contract of agreement then in effect: Provided further, That the bargaining representative has been given opportunity to be present at such adjustment.”

So when the company tells you that if you form a union the “Open-door policy” or “the right to speak with me privately” or anything like this will have to stop, tell them you know better.  

You Are Forming a Union to Protect Your Rights,
Not to Take Them Away!