With a proposed change to the duty of fair representation (DFR) standards under consideration, the International has created new suggested guidelines on grievances to help locals improve tracking, keep members informed, and respond to members’ questions.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is considering a rule change that would increase the record keeping and reporting requirements unions must meet for grievances.
First, the NLRB’s general counsel plans to charge unions with a breach of their DFR if the union loses track, misplaces or forgets grievances. The NLRB will not charge unions that can show that they track grievances with established, reasonable procedures or systems. Second, the general counsel is going to charge a union with a breach of its DFR if the union:
• Does not communicate decisions the union makes about the grievance, such as decisions to drop, settle, or not appeal or arbitrate grievances;
• Does not respond to members’ questions about grievances or possible grievances, unless the union has a reasonable explanation for failing to do so. (Example: if the union didn’t respond because the grievant asked the same question because the grievant was dissatisfied with the representative’s previous response.) The general counsel stated that the union would not fulfill its DFR if it responded to the grievant only after the grievant filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union.
Here’s how locals can ensure they uphold their DFR under these proposed changes:
• Create and establish a grievance tracking system that notifies representatives when appeals to next steps are due and tracks representatives’ appeals or the reasons why the representatives didn’t appeal;
• Ensure all representatives consistently use and maintain the tracking system;
• Provide members with regular updates from representatives on the status of their grievances at every step, including filing, appeals to next steps, settlement and arbitration;
• Strengthen and improve response rates by representatives on members’ questions about grievances. If representatives respond in person or in a phone call, representatives should follow up with emails and carefully note the communication in the grievance file and tracking system.
While this does not necessarily mean that representatives must respond on the same day the member asks about the grievance, the representative should respond within two to three days, or else have a good reason for delay. If members express disagreement with the union’s decision or asks the same question again, the representative will likely not have to do any more than acknowledge the member’s question and refer the member to the representative’s prior response.
If you have any questions about the suggested guidelines or need more information, contact George Wiszynski in the International’s Legal Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.