Prepare the case beforehand
Have your facts down in writing. Organize and understand your notes to guide your presentation. Be confident. Anticipate the company’s argument and have your answers ready. Make an effort to talk to the worker alone before you meet the supervisor.
Talk the case over, if necessary, with other representatives, your committee people, or others who might help you.
An immediate answer is not always possible. Supervisors may need to consider an issue or check with superiors. Is delay justified, or is it a stall? Invoke the contract’s time limits. Move it to the next stage if the time limit for a response has expired. Ask for a settlement to be retroactive to the date the grievance was filed to reduce the incentive to stall. Be polite throughout.
When to listen and when to talk
You can talk your way out of winning. If you listen well, you gain valuable information – and the right to demand that management hears you without interruption when it’s your turn. Listen 80% and talk 20%… you’ll gain valuable information.
Anticipate employer objections
How will the supervisor respond? Prepare the right answers to any objections. No matter how well you investigate, the supervisor may have more information. Ask why this grievance happened – and listen to the answer. Don’t be side-tracked to other issues. Keep your focus. Let supervisors talk themselves out, and then bring them back to the main point.
Know your facts – be confident
Facts determine the outcome of a grievance; it’s rare for presentation alone to carry a case. Present your facts firmly but not militantly. Be accurate and don’t exaggerate. Be positive. Don’t convey the sense that you are presenting the grievance only because you have to.
It is only a matter of time until your bluff is called; it is in the long run wiser to develop a reputation for honesty.
Control the discussion
Keep to your best arguments. Ask management questions; ask them to justify themselves. Keep the emphasis on your complaints and grievances. Object if you get evasive answers. Ask for facts if you get vague statements.
Make mgt prove its position
It can be effective to ask a supervisor to justify management’s action. Don’t try to show that they were wrong from the outset. Let them carry the burden of proof.
Keep in touch
Discuss each management reply with the grievant, the chief steward or other Union leaders. Decide together whether to accept the response or go to the next step. Monitor time limits.
Settle when possible
It’s best if you can settle a grievance at the first step. Your ability to do this depends on keeping a decent relationship with your supervisor. If you settle, don’t rub it in. There will be other grievances.
Avoid unnecessary delays
Justice delayed is justice denied.If the company asks for more time, try to determine whether it is an attempt to stall or it is based on a sincere desire for more facts needed to settle the case. If the company is not trying to stall, you should grant a reasonable extension. You may need to go back to the company on another grievance and ask for more time.
Disagree with dignity
If your grievance is denied tell management you will pursue the case to a settlement. Supervisors don’t like to expose their labor relations problems to higher-ups, and may well settle.
Scrutinize any deals
Be careful if your supervisor wants to trade. Remember the rights of all members. Each grievance stands on its own merits. If you trade one member’s grievance for another, the member whose case is dropped could charge you. The union is legally required to represent all members fairly.
Withdraw grievances with care
You may have grieved to force a discussion, with no intention of proceeding. Even if the discussion doesn’t achieve all you hoped, you may wish to drop the grievance. (Record the problem to raise in bargaining in future.) Consult your leaders when in doubt. You might solve a serious problem by dropping a weak grievance. Or you might drop a case because the grievant has quit or moved away. If you are going to withdraw a grievance, do it as a “withdraw without prejudice.”
Agree on what you’ve agreed
Don’t leave without a clear written record of what you have agreed. Don’t depend on management records. Keep your own notes. If you have some agreement, write it down and have both sides sign it.
Enforce the contract!!
Contract administration is a day-to-day activity and should involve the stewards and the rank-and-file. The best contract in the world has no value if the workers and the union representatives do not require the company to live up to its terms.