What is a grievance?
As outlined in Article 4 of the UFEA contract “grievance shall mean a written complaint by a member of the bargaining unit or the Association that there has been a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of any provision(s) of this Agreement.”
Who can file a grievance?
Any member of the bargaining unit may grieve an alleged violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of the contract. Individuals seeking the support of the union regarding a potential grievance should reach out to UFEA so the UFEA grievance committee can consider the grievance, determine whether it has merit, and proceed through the contractual process.
Do I have to file a written grievance if I believe the contract has been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied?
It’s appropriate, and encouraged, to first try to resolve these issues informally. However, if the issue isn’t resolved informally, it is important that a bargaining unit member contacts UFEA and initiates the grievance process as soon as possible — both to avoid any claim by the district that the union has allowed and finds any violation, misinterpretation or misapplication acceptable, and to make sure that the appropriate timelines are met.
How does the grievance committee work?
When the UFEA grievance committee receives a report of a potential violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of the contract, they will consider it and may ask for additional information from the impacted bargaining unit member(s), including what provision(s) of the contract the bargaining unit member(s) allege have been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied. Part of the deliberation is considering the likelihood that UFEA would win any potential arbitration on such a grievance, since the arbitration process consumes significant resources (both time and money). Often, the grievance committee will rely on advice from our IEA UniServ Director and/or the IEA Legal Department when assessing the merit of a potential grievance. The chair of the grievance committee is a member of UFEA’s executive committee and will share the recommendation of the grievance committee with the UFEA officers and executive committee. If a grievance moves forward, UFEA’s Representative Council would weigh in on any decision to move to arbitration since there would be a cost to UFEA.
Can I file a grievance if I am disappointed in the tone of an email from my administrator?
Generally, there would not be a grievance based on the tone of an email from an administrator since a grievance exists when there has been a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of contractual provisions. We don’t have any contractual provisions that are related to the tone with which an administrator communicates to bargaining unit members. That doesn’t necessarily mean nothing could be done to address the concern, but it likely would not rise to the level of a grievance unless a contractual provision could be identified which had been violated, misinterpreted, or misapplied.
Can I file a grievance if I don’t like how my coworker is treating me?
No. Grievances may not be filed by one bargaining unit member against another. UFEA has a contractual relationship — and negotiated agreement — with the district. Since there must be a violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of the contract for a grievance to exist, there would not be a grievance in a situation where one bargaining unit member is unhappy with another bargaining unit member (or with another employee who is not an administrator).
However, if there are concerns or conflicts between bargaining unit members or other employees, UFEA has negotiated a Concern Resolution Process which should be used to address such concerns and conflicts. If a bargaining unit member initiates the Concern Resolution Process and it is not handled appropriately by administration, then there could be a grievance against administration for violating, misinterpreting or misapplying the contractual provisions regarding concern resolution.
I’m not tenured and I’m afraid to share a potential grievance for fear of retaliation. What should I do?
In order to address and resolve a potential grievance, it’s necessary for UFEA to have details of the circumstances — including names of those involved, dates, specifics of the situation, and the provision(s) of the contract which may have been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied. Without those specifics, it will be difficult for UFEA to get any resolution.
All bargaining unit members, regardless of tenure status, are encouraged to bring forward any potential contract violations so they can be addressed by UFEA. And non-tenured bargaining unit members are protected by both contract and law in pursuing any grievance.
4.8 of the contract states “No reprisals shall be taken by the employer against any bargaining unit member because of the bargaining unit member’s participation in a grievance.” After a grievance is filed, if any bargaining unit member believes there is any retaliation from an administrator, they should notify UFEA leadership immediately.
I was directed to work outside the contract, and I was not compensated. Is this a grievance?
Probably. A bargaining unit member in this case would be encouraged to address the issue informally with their administrator first to try to resolve it. They could do so with the support of UFEA, such as a building rep.
Many times, informal conversations can successfully resolve concerns. If an informal conversation can’t satisfactorily resolve the concern, it should be passed on to the UFEA grievance committee for consideration.
A bargaining unit member who has been directed to work outside the contract without compensation should provide the grievance committee with specific details, including copies of any written directives from an administrator.
I brought a concern (that could be a grievance) to the attention of my building administrator, but they are ignoring the situation. What is my next step?
If a bargaining unit member has attempted to resolve an alleged violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of the contract with an administrator informally, and it has been ignored or not resolved satisfactorily, the concern should be passed along to the grievance committee.
Can I have a UFEA representative with me when I share information regarding a grievance?
UFEA serves as the “exclusive bargaining representative” for all individuals covered by our contract. And, since the grievance process is the mechanism available for enforcing our contract, no individual bargaining unit member ever has to process a grievance alone without the support and representation of the union.
An individual certainly could attempt to resolve a grievance informally with their administrator without having a union representative present, especially if they are more comfortable or believe it will help get the issue resolved more easily or quickly. But an individual may always have a representative from UFEA present with them when processing a grievance, or could ask the union to process the grievance on their behalf.
If any bargaining unit member believes there is a potential grievance and they aren’t sure how to move forward at any point in the process, they should reach out to the UFEA representative or leader for clarification, guidance and support.
According to labor law, the only time in which a union representative is able to participate would be when a bargaining unit member is subject to discipline. This is outlined by Weingarten rights. However, UFEA has language that allows for representatives to attend during additional situations. Members are certainly welcome to ask for a UFEA representative to attend a meeting with them.
I don’t want my name associated with any grievance, but I want the situation fixed. What should I do?
It is likely very difficult to get a situation addressed or resolved without specifics — including who is being impacted, who else was involved, when the alleged grievance occurred, and the provision(s) of the contract that have allegedly been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied. There are times when there are several bargaining unit members impacted, often in several buildings. In those cases, it may be processed as a “class grievance”, but if there is a remedy to be applied to impacted individuals, UFEA would still need to have names of those impacted in order to get the remedy applied appropriately.
The grievance process is legally protected, and individuals are provided support from the union and protection from retaliation both contractually and legally.
What happens if the district and UFEA cannot come to an agreement to settle a grievance?
If UFEA and the district move through the steps of the grievance process outlined in Article 4 of the contract and either the district refuses to remedy the situation or the parties can’t come to agreement on a way to settle the grievance, the contract — consistent with the law which governs our labor/management relationship (the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act) — states that the union may submit the grievance to final and binding arbitration. If the matter proceeds to arbitration, the parties would argue their cases before an independent arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association, with the costs shared between the union and district. The arbitrator has the final authority to decide the outcome and to assign any remedy they deem appropriate.
What is the difference between a grievance and an unfair labor practice?
A grievance is a complaint by a bargaining unit member or the union that there has been a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of any provision(s) of the contract.
An unfair labor practice (ULP) is a very specific violation of the law, specifically Section 14 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA). Either the district or the union could commit an unfair labor practice.
Do grievances happen often?
There are often situations which occur that could constitute a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of the contract. These are often unintentional and can usually be resolved informally without progressing through the steps of the grievance process. UFEA attempts to enforce the contract and address potential issues through the advocacy and work of the UFEA president during the day and through regular labor/management meetings with district administrators. Building reps are encouraged to have similar meetings regularly with building administrators as well. But, there are times when the district and union don’t agree and issues move through the more formal grievance process. These are relatively rare, due in large part to the efforts UFEA makes to solve problems regularly and informally.