The Steps of a Grievance
Before just about any workplace complaint is put into writing, as a formal grievance, an attempt should be made to work through the problem at the lowest level. Even if your contract’s grievance procedure doesn’t specifically call for an informal oral step to start out with, you and/or your union steward should talk to a supervisor in an attempt to clear up any misunderstandings, or to resolve any disagreement.
This is almost always a good idea, in part because once a complaint is committed to writing, parties’ positions tend to harden. And even if an informal attempt to address a problem does not in fact resolve it, it generally has the beneficial effect of clarifying what the problem is and how the parties may see it differently. But if informal attempts don’t work, the next step consists of formally putting the grievance in writing.
Generally the idea is simply to lay out, at least in general terms, that an identified action taken by the employer is being challenged, and that certain relief is sought. Your contract booklet itself may contain a sample form to be used to initiate a grievance. One or more face-to-face meetings take place following the filing of a formal written grievance.
At these meetings, the union and the employer representatives try to hash out whether they agree on what the facts are, whether the contract has in fact been violated, and if so, what it will take to resolve the grievance.
-- Adapted from The Union Members Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer