Types of Grievances
It is important for stewards to know which of the two basic types of grievances you may be dealing with in order to know how to proceed.

Discipline Grievance
If the employer has imposed discipline, then the employer must prove it had "just cause".

All Other Grievances
If no discipline is imposed, then the union must prove that an offense, like a contract violation, has occurred.

Once you know which of the two types of grievances you have, use the appropriate checklist to analyze the grievance and develop the strongest arguments.

Grievance Investigation Checklist:

1. An Employee Appears with a Problem-

• Put the employee at ease
• Encourage discussion on the problem
• Let employee tell own story but guide the discussion... Listen attentively
• Give your full attention. Do not create a negative atmosphere
• When employee has finished, ask questions
• Do not personalize the issues. Maintain an objective attitude
• Clarify any doubtful or ambiguous points
• Do not ask questions that will reveal some predisposed decision on how to handle the grievance
• Do not jump to conclusions-investigate thoroughly
• Distinguish between facts, opinions, allegations and assumptions
• Ask employee to repeat story-be aware of verbatim story and inconsistencies
• Probe for weaknesses
• Take notes but not too early or too quickly
• Get names, times, places
• Insulate against being intentionally baited or irritated
• Recap your understanding of what the grievance is and remedy sought

2. The Next Step-

• Check grievability or arbitrability
• Check the appropriate contract provisions, rules or policies
• Check the time limits
• Locate and interview witnesses
• Talk to all persons who can shed light on the case, including those the other party will use Check the facts on both sides
• Examine and organize all records and documents
• Look at the physical premises
• Check relevant past practices
• Check previous grievance settlements for precedent and guidance
• Check the experience of others in similar cases

Essential Information to Help Analyze Grievances

Just Cause
A key question in discipline cases is "Did management have 'just cause' for imposing the discipline?" The "just cause" standard is written into most union contracts. Some contracts may use "cause," "proper cause," reasonable and sufficient cause," etc. These usually mean the same as "just cause." Even if a contract does not use the words "just cause," an arbitrator may apply that standard anyway.

"Just cause," means that the employer...

• Had a good reason to discipline the worker
• Took action consistent with past practice
• Treated the worker as other workers would have been treated
• Took action that was appropriate for the particular offense

Past Practice
Past practice is a consistent and frequent pattern of conduct by the employer over a period of years, which benefits employees. Both management and the union must have known about and accepted the conduct. An example of a past practice is a 15-minute wash-up period at the end of a shift, not mentioned in the contract, that for years has been allowed by a particular employer. If an employer tries to discipline someone who was following a well established past practice, you should file a grievance.

The Six W's of Grievances:

WHO was involved in the incident?
Be sure you can properly identify not only who was involved, but also any witnesses to the incident. Obtain names, identification, clock numbers, departments, shift, rate, seniority, etc.

WHEN did it happen?
Identify the incident as specifically as possible - time, date, shift, overtime or regular time, etc.

WHERE did it happen?
Locate the area of the facility by department or zone. If machinery is involved, identify it by serial number. This is especially important in the case of health and safety grievances.

WHAT happened that makes this incident a grievance?
What are the circumstances of the incident?

WHY is this incident a grievance?
If the Union allowed allegation is that the contract has been violated, request that they state the specific clause and indicate how Management's action or inaction violates the contract. Some unions may not always want to cite the exact section of the contract. When they are too specific they may limit their area of argument. It is possible that either a state or federal labor law may have been violated. Review your contractual definition of a grievance. An employee may have a legitimate problem, which is not covered by the grievance procedure and should be resolved in another forum.

WHAT remedy does the employee want?
Be careful and listen because many times an employee will be satisfied with a somewhat "lesser" remedy than the steward feels should be the case. Keep in mind that you represent the employee and if the settlement offered is acceptable to the employee and is not way out of line the steward should not stand in the way unless some important principle is at stake. On the other hand make sure that the grievant's requested remedies are realistic and obtainable.