In this lesson plan we will review the grievance procedure as it relates to the attitude of union members.
The grievance procedure has significant value. The grievance procedure provides the members with the means to challenge the employer’s actions, more specifically, the employer’s violations of the collective bargaining agreement. It provides the employee with the opportunity to have their “day in court”. The grievance procedure is a mechanism that provides due process for a member to demand fairness, consistency, justice and equity from the employer as a result of the employer’s contract violation. Research finds that union members value the grievance procedure. This is especially true when the member believes the union is doing an effective job representing its members and administering the grievance process. The grievance procedure is a visible process that provides the member an opportunity to see the union in action in the workplace. The efforts of the union, when performed effectively may have an positive impact on the member about their union. The union’s performance and efforts in representing its members through the grievance procedure can be a tool for building the union.
The grievance procedure serves several different and valuable functions in the workplace. First, it is the enforcement mechanism. When the employer fails to comply with the terms of the agreement the grievance procedure is invoked in order to enforce the agreement. Usually the procedure contains about 3-5 steps beginning with an informal discussion, followed by a formal written grievance and eventually ending in arbitration if the grievance is not resolved at the earlier levels. Approximately 96% of contracts contain a grievance procedure according to a 1997 research finding. The grievance procedure also serves as an extension of the negotiation process as it applies to the day-to-day interpretation of its terms. For example and ambiguity may arise such as the interpretation of of a word or phrase only to learn the word or phrase may have more than one meaning and each party interprets the intent of the word of phrase differently. The grievance process is an opportunity for the parties to arrive at a satisfactory understanding. In the operation of the business and the administration of the contract unforeseen circumstances often arise that were not, or could not have been, anticipated by the parties when the contract was negotiated. It is impossible to anticipate every circumstance that could arise. The grievance procedure may serve as an opportunity for the union and the employer to reach a mutually agreed upon solution that facilitates adaptation to the changing circumstance. Another function of the grievance procedure involves the channeling of conflict into a mechanism that allows for the peaceful resolution of conflict. This provides an opportunity for misunderstandings to be resolved before they can expand into a major problem. Grievance procedures can be an alternative to avoiding a strike that can be costly to the members, the union and the employer. In these respect serves as a conflict management process The procedure also serves as a communication means for the member to express themselves about workplace matters. It is an opportunity to “complain” with dignity. Perhaps the most important function the grievance procedure serves is that it brings due process and justice to the workplace. Couple with an arbitration process, it allows employees to challenge unilateral decisions by management. It gives the employee to share their version of the story.
Before we proceed about a discussion about grievance effectiveness it is important to point out that in study of 1500 workers the grievance procedure was determined to be the most important of union activities. In another survey of 33 organizing campaigns, 82% of the campaigns brought up the importance of the grievance procedure in resolving workplace unfairness. This was brought up more than any other issues, including wage improvements. Now with that point we will segue into member attitudes about the grievance procedure. Studies have measured grievance procedure effectiveness from the point of view of the employer and the union. Criteria to used to examine effectiveness include four components, grievance rate, speed of settlement, extent of arbitration, and equity of settlement.
Measurements used by the union and the employer may not be effective when it comes to measuring the attitude of members towards the grievance procedure. The union should be concerned about the members measure of effectiveness. After all effectiveness is should be considered to be in the “eye of the beholder”, the union member. To examine member attitudes towards a grievance procedure a scale was establish that look at four factors. These factors look at four distinct concerns: First , the effect of the grievance procedure on the workplace and its impact on the way employers treat employees in terms of equity, dignity and protection from arbitrary action. Second, the level of satisfaction with the process itself, including the fairness of the procedure and the speed with which disputes were settled. Third, the member’s evaluation of union representation in the grievance procedure, in both style and substance. Fourth, a general sense of Importance or value which the individual member attaches to the presence of the grievance procedure in the employment relationship. This scale suggests that union members evaluate grievance procedures by considering the dimensions just stated.
As we just discussed effect, process, representation and importance are factors that can be measured to determine a member’s attitude towards the grievance procedure. Using these measurement factors, the study examined 1000 union members of the same union working for the same employer about their attitudes toward the grievance procedure. Of the four factors the study found that the attitudes of the members were shaped by three of the four factors. They were process, representation and importance. Effect played a less important role in shaping their attitude. The results suggest that a union may have a positive influence over the member’s commitment to the union by ensuring the grievance procedure is viewed positively by the members. Process and representation focus on procedural concerns. These are the factors that unions should pay particular attention. Of course outcomes or effects is important but research suggests that exposure to the process can have a positive impact on a member’s attitude. This would suggest that member’s want to feel confident that the union is doing an effective job in processing the grievance and representing them in the process. It also suggests that the member recognizes the outcome is not entirely up to the union but they still want the union to be effective in the processing and representational efforts.
The outcome of a grievance is clearly important but outcomes are not controlled by the union. The union can impact the members attitude by what it can control. Two strategies the union may use to focus on building member commitment is establishing an effective grievance procedure and effective representation. It is important to remember the grievance procedure is a benefit that is available to all union members. This is one of the basic reasons members want a union. The grievance procedure is their process for challenging workplace injustice and inequity.
There are several strategies a union can consider and act on as it relates to the grievance procedure and how the procedures use may affect the attitude of a member. The union should periodically re-examine the grievance procedure, consider the steward’s role in the grievance procedure, improve the grievance handing skills of stewards, focus on member relations as it relates to the grievance procedure, provide training, and concentrate on reducing steward turnover. Each of these strategies will be looked at in more detail next.
The contract is an important and necessary provision of the collective bargaining agreement. Too often the grievance procedure is left without further examination or review after it was first negotiated. The grievance procedure should not be considered carved in stone in its present form. The grievance may be broken, user un-friendly, or favor management. If it is broke it can be fixed through the collective bargaining process. The structure of the grievance procedure should review the procedure for accessibility. Is the language in the procedure to restrictive. Does it discourage grievances? Is the statue of limitations reasonable? The time limits should be reviewed. Do they provide for adequate time for investigation? Is information accessible? Does the procedure provide reasonable access to information it needs to process grievances?
The steward plays a critical role in the union. The steward is the link to the the members and the officers of the union. The Steward is the workplace face of the union and personifies what the union is all about. The steward usually engages in several activities including, among others political action, organizing, and education of the union members. But for most members the role, the prime role is grievance representation. As we discussed earlier representational quality factors into a member’s attitude towards the union. It is important that Stewards be provided adequate training, be prepared, and receive crucial support from the union. Effective representational performance by the steward is essential to promoting positive attitudes among the membership.
Effective performance requires the steward to know and understand the grievance process. The steward must be accessible to the members and the steward must be knowledgeable about the contract and be able to interpret its provisions. Stewards must know how to investigate grievances and be skilled at gathering evidence.
Effective member relations is a crucial element that requires attention if union is to expect its members to be committed to the union. The union must stand up for the member’s contractual rights and fight workplace injustice. The union must demonstrate its effectiveness, provide adequately available representatives and not assume members know their rights. The union has a responsibility to keep the grievant informed and included throughout the grievance process. The union should also keep the general membership informed about its representational activities.
Training of stewards is critical. Stewards should not learn through trial and error. Stewards should be adequately trained, preferably soon after their election or appointment. Training can be done at the local union, through a labor education program. Mentoring, by assigning a seasoned to steward with a new one is another way to train and orient a new steward. Training should be ongoing and systemic. This can include basic, intermediate and advanced training workshops and complimented with a mentor steward program.
Key points concerning the grievance procedure is the grievance procedure in most organized work places is one of the most important achievements of the modern American labor movement. Members attitudes toward the grievance procedure can have significant influence on their attitudes toward the union. Members attitudes toward the the union are influenced more by how they view the grievance process itself than by the outcomes of the process. There are many things unions can do to ensure that their grievance procedures are functioning as effectively as possible.
This concludes the lecture Grievance Procedure. In our next lesson plan we will study Union Information and Communication Strategies. I look to discussing our next topic. Please be sure to complete the lesson block assignment, the strategic plan assignment, post to the forum and complete the quiz.
Value of Grievance Process <ul><li>Procedure – challenge employer’s actions </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanism - fairness, consistency, justice, equity </li></ul><ul><li>Members value grievance procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Visible to union members </li></ul><ul><li>Efforts may have positive impact </li></ul><ul><li>Tool for building union </li></ul>
Role of Grievance Procedure (GP) <ul><li>Policing or enforcement </li></ul><ul><li>Day–to-day interpretation </li></ul><ul><li>Adaptation </li></ul><ul><li>Management of Conflict </li></ul><ul><li>Vehicle for expression </li></ul><ul><li>Due process </li></ul>
Measure of Effectiveness <ul><li>Grievance representation most valued activity </li></ul><ul><li>Measure of grievance effectiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Grievance rate, settlement speed, </li></ul><ul><li>Extent of arbitration usage </li></ul><ul><li>Equity of settlement </li></ul>
Effectiveness “Eye of Beholder” <ul><li>Effectiveness “eye of the beholder” – member </li></ul><ul><li>Scale looked at four factors </li></ul><ul><li>Effect of the grievance procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Satisfaction with process </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation of union representation </li></ul><ul><li>Sense of Importance </li></ul>
Procedure and Commitment <ul><li>Study examined 1000 members of one union </li></ul><ul><li>Attitude shaped by process, representation, importance </li></ul><ul><li>Effect played less important role </li></ul><ul><li>Union can positively influence member’s commitment </li></ul>
Strategy Overview <ul><li>Establish effective grievance procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Establish effective representation </li></ul><ul><li>Grievance representation is a benefit </li></ul><ul><li>Basic reason workers want union </li></ul>
Strategies <ul><li>Re-examine grievance procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Stewards Role in the Grievance Procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Grievance handling skills </li></ul><ul><li>Member relations </li></ul><ul><li>Training </li></ul><ul><li>Steward Turnover </li></ul>
Structure <ul><li>Important to examine process structure </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Reasonable time limits </li></ul><ul><li>Access to Information </li></ul>
Steward’s Role <ul><li>Steward is link to members and officers </li></ul><ul><li>Personifies the union </li></ul><ul><li>Role in political action, organizing, education </li></ul><ul><li>Prime role – grievance representation </li></ul><ul><li>Training, preparation and support crucial </li></ul><ul><li>Effective performance </li></ul>
Grievance Handling Skills <ul><li>Steward must know the grievance process </li></ul><ul><li>Stewards must be accessible to members </li></ul><ul><li>Stewards must be knowledgeable about contract </li></ul><ul><li>Stewards must know how to investigate grievances </li></ul><ul><li>Stewards must be skilled at gathering evidence </li></ul>
Member Relations <ul><li>Union must stand up for contractual rights </li></ul><ul><li>Union must demonstrate its effectiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Provide adequate representative availability </li></ul><ul><li>Unions should not assume member knows rights </li></ul><ul><li>Keep grievant informed of grievance status </li></ul><ul><li>Keep general membership informed </li></ul>
Training <ul><li>Stewards should be adequately trained </li></ul><ul><li>Training should be soon after election or appointment </li></ul><ul><li>Training – in house, labor education </li></ul><ul><li>Mentor program </li></ul><ul><li>Training ongoing and systemic </li></ul>
Key Points <ul><li>Grievance Procedure important achievement </li></ul><ul><li>Attitude toward procedure impacts attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Influenced more by process than outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Unions may do many things ensure effectiveness </li></ul>