Grievances

Grievances are just one of many tools we use to defend our rights and our contract.

Download a blank grievance form here.

If you need help filling it out, please speak to a steward or get a steward assigned by contacting steward dispatch. You can leave a voicemail or send a text message to (802) 391-0123, or you can send an email to howard.union@gmail.com.

Don’t be a victim of the grievance timeline!

In general, the agency has no contractual obligation to consider, process, or resolve grievances once ten calendar days have elapsed from the date of the offense in question.

Specifically, our contract states that “a grievance must be presented orally and informally to the person who allegedly committed the grievance within ten (10) calendar days after the employee knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the events giving rise to the grievance.”

As often as we hear, “But I didn’t know about the timeline when the thing happened,” it still doesn’t cut the mustard.

There are some notable exceptions or circumstances that might give rise to greater flexibility on timeline issues, but you should never count on that. Always file on time. And, if a steward is helping you with your grievance, the best way you can help and express your gratitude is to assist your steward in staying on top of the timeline.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about grievances and the grievance procedure

How do I know if a problem is grounds for a grievance (or not)?

If the contract has been violated, it’s a grievance.

If you have been treated unfairly, it might be a grievance. If “unfair” means differently from other people performing the same or substantially similar work, or in the same job title at one work site, for instance, then yes, it is probably a grievance.

This also applies to when you are treated differently than non-bargaining unit workers (e.g., supervisors, administrative staff, etc.) in the enforcement of a rule that applies equally to those workers as it does to you.

If “unfair” means in a way that violates Howard Center’s Standards of Excellence, then yes, it is probably a grievance.

If I file a grievance, won’t I just get into trouble or make things worse on myself?

If you’re at the point where you’re considering filing a grievance, then one thing is all but certain: if you don’t do something, things will continue to get worse.

If you present or file a grievance and experience retaliation (and forget for a moment about whether you think you could “prove” that retaliation to someone else), then inform someone from the union immediately.

Can I file a grievance myself or do I need someone from the union to do it?

Shorter answer: You can file any grievance yourself until and unless it passes Step 3 of the grievance procedure. However, it is inadvisable to file anything beyond the Step 1 grievance by yourself.

Longer answer: Don’t waste a grievance. If something has happened to you that affects coworkers as well, or your coworkers are upset about what’s happened to you specifically, etc., file a collective grievance. In that kind of grievance, you all sign off on a grievance form, or you all go to the boss and present the issue together. We build effective power by using power effectively, and few things are a more effective use of power than standing up together. If you need tips on how to go about doing this, or want to bounce things off someone, feel free to reach out to a steward or other union officer or organizer.

I am not a dues-paying union member. Will the union still help me with my grievance?

Yes, up to a point. The union is obligated to provide fair representation to members and non-members alike, so long as those non-members occupy positions within the bargaining unit. However, if a grievance reaches the point of arbitration or requires the involvement of a professional union staffer or union attorney, non-members will be charged an hourly rate ($250/hr, as we understand it).

You should join the union. Forget about the worst-case-scenario hourly-rate thing above, or even that joining is the simply the right thing to do, and consider: investigating, processing, and staying on top of a grievance can take a lot of time and effort. The higher the step the grievance process reaches, the more legwork it requires. Your steward does not expect a cent from you or even a thank-you. The best way you can show your gratitude is by joining. Just about nothing is more rewarding for a steward than when a grievant who is not a union member signs a dues card and joins us.

I’m confused: the contract says Step 1 is an “informal” or “oral” grievance. Does that mean I don’t need to use the written grievance form? And if it’s informal, then why is it formally a step?

Shorter answer: You do not need to use the grievance form at Step 1. If you are presenting the grievance verbally, do your best to make clear the intent of your interaction from the start (i.e., “I have a grievance I need to discuss with you”).

Longer answer: You may end up using the grievance form at Step 1 anyway: ideally, a grievance is resolved at Step 1, which is “informal” because it’s about you talking directly to the respondent and trying to remedy the situation through respectful conversation. While this conversation does not need to involve serving the respondent with a written grievance form, in practice that typically happens anyway because (1) the grievance is not resolved by the end of the conversation, and (2) timelines are extremely important to the grievance process, and forms are a key way we track these timelines.

Am I nuts or is the contract’s grievance process and timeline extremely confusing?

Shorter answer: You are totally sane. Well, at least insofar as the grievance language is concerned.

Longer answer: The process outlined in the contract has critical gaps and inconsistencies. For instance, at Step 1, a hearing on the grievance “may” be held, whereas at Step 3, a hearing “shall” be held. There are even portions of the timeline that are not explicitly addressed. Normally, these kinds of issues would be resolved during contract negotiations, however, opening up a subject for bargaining typically means opening up the entire subject for bargaining. In other words, we could get clarity, but if the whole union isn’t strong enough by the time those negotiations take place, we could also be forced into concessions on grievance procedure issues.

Last updated 9/17/19

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