Grievance Writing Tips

Here are some basic hints to help you write good grievances.

1. Short and Sweet. Unless your contract specifies otherwise, limit the information you present to what the basic problem is, what violations have occurred, and how the problem needs to be fixed by the employer.

2. Omit all arguments. You should not include arguments, evidence, and justifications on the form, unless your contract states otherwise. Save these items for the first level meeting when you go in to speak with the boss. Writing them into the grievance tips your hand and you don’t need to give the employer any more ammunition before you arrive on the scene.

3. Use flexible language. When citing dates, precede the actual date of the event with the phrase, “On or about.” A grievance dealing with supervisors doing union work might read, “On or about March 21, supervisor Brown performed bargaining unit work by painting a wall panel.” If this happened on two dates March 20 and 21, you stand on firmer ground for the grievance.

4. Don’t limit contract violations. When you write your grievance use the expression, “management violated the contract including but not limited to Article ??, Section ??.” By adding the words “including but not limited to,” you are on surer ground if you need to add additional violations of the agreement later on.

5. No opinions. Do not use words such as “I think,” or “I want.” The grievance states the union position.

6. Don’t use company language. Your grievance should use the words you are comfortable with, not how the boss characterizes the situation. It’s not “disputed work;” it’s “bargaining unit work.” The grievant does not have a “bad attitude’ she has been denied “due process.”  Concede nothing on paper.

7. Don’t limit the remedy. Use the phrase, “the grievant should be made whole in every way including…[then ask for what you want].” By using these words, you are not limiting your remedy because you left out something in the grievance. It also gives the union some leeway to bargain over the award….But remember — just because you use the phrase “made whole in every way,” does not mean that management or an arbitrator will search out all the specific benefits management denied the grievant. You must try to include the entire remedy in the grievance.

8. Involve the grievant. This rule may seem obvious. By consulting with the member, you will be getting all the details you need to pursue the grievance and at the same time make sure both of you are on the same page in requesting an appropriate remedy. Some of our contracts are very specific and indicate that the grievant must write up the grievance and/or sign it. This language should be seen as a strength, not a weakness. It means that you will have to work with the grievant in getting the correct language down on paper. It also keeps the member a direct participant in the process and this strengthens the union. Keep the grievant up to date.

9. Sign the grievance. Whether the contract calls for a grievant’s signature or not, get the member to sign. It empowers the member and at the same time makes clear that the union and member will speak as one.

10. Stay timely. Do not miss your time limits. Whatever the issue, never lose out because you missed the time limits set up by your contract.

11. Focus on the process. Prepare each grievance as if it will be arbitrated. Do the proper investigation early; keep good notes; and pass copies of everything up to the local union.

12. Pre-meet to resolve if you can. Always remember if you can resolve the grievance before you write it up, you are way ahead of the game. Once the grievance is committed to paper, other management people tend to get involved.


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