COMMON MISTAKES NOT TO MAKE
- Miss your deadline. You know what the contract says, but somehow you
forget to file the grievance within the specified time. The grievance, in almost every case,
becomes history. Two pieces of advice. Keep a calendar diary with dates marked in red so you
won't miss deadlines. And if you need more time, ask for an extension from management and
get it in writing.
- Never get back to the grievant. This usually happens when the steward
determines that the member has no grievance. Rather than be the bearer of bad tidings, the
steward disappears. This is irresponsible. If the issue is not grievable under the contract, see
if it can be resolved in another manner. If not, tell the member that the issue cannot be written
as a grievance, and give him/her the reasons.
- Bad mouth the union. If you have a problem with the way things are done
or with your leadership, discuss the issue(s) in a rational manner. Get off the soapbox and see
if the difference can be resolved. There's plenty of room for discussion and disagreement. But
when it spills out on the shop floor or at a meeting when management is present, such
disagreements can permanently weaken the union. A house divided against itself will fail.
- Drop the routine fly ball. You are the steward with responsibilities outlined
by the constitution and by-laws. You should not make basic mistakes. Grievances should be
written correctly. Information should be shared. You should know your rights. If you are
unsure or don't know the answer, ask.
- Sit down and shut up at meetings with management. In your role as a steward
you are the union advocate. This role is an active one. You are the equal of management. You
may ask questions, ask for and get records to process grievances, and even raise your voice at
meetings when necessary.
- Lose control. A major no no. You or a member may be baited at a grievance
meeting so that you will get angry. A steward who argues out of anger and not facts will lose
the grievance. Period.
- Write long grievances. Grievances should be short and sweet. Management
is being paid big salaries to supervise. Don't do the work for them. Your grievances should
identify the grievant, outline the problem in a sentence or two, state what article of the contract
is being violated, and what remedy you want to make the grievant whole. Save the arguments
for the meeting. A good poker player never tips his/her hand.
- Meet the grievant for the first time at the grievance hearing. If this is the first
time you've met the member, you are inviting trouble. Big time. You should talk to the grievant
face to face when you investigate the grievance and write it.
You should also talk to the grievant prior to the hearing to familiarize him/her with the process.
When they walk into the room, they should feel as comfortable as possible. They should know
that yes, no, and I don't know are acceptable answers at a hearing. Describe the room to them,
who will be there, and what they will be asked.
- Wait for the member to come to you with the problem. If you do this, you
will never gain the respect of the membership you represent or the management you must deal
with. Problems can often be resolved before they explode into grievances. And members may
not be as aware of contract violations and grievable issues as you are.
- Forget to take a breather. This is intense work. Stewards work a full-time
job and then take on their union responsibilities. This kind of existence is rewarding but is
fraught with burn-out. Take time for yourself and your family.
Send mail to TEA_TX@webtv.net with questions or comments about this website or to report any bad links.
Copyright © 1999 Transit Employees Association of Texas.