Even when a member has a legitimate beef, there may not be any basis for filing a grievance. Learning how to say No” to a grievance is just as important as learning how to file a grievance. Filing baseless grievances raises false expectations for the member, wastes the stewards’ time, and potentially weakens your hand when you come back later with a real grievance.
So how do you say No”?
You’ll find that it’s easier if you don’t put it off. By responding in a timely fashion you’ll let the worker know that the union took the problem seriously enough to investigate it promptly.
Make sure the member is the first to know. It’s a simple courtesy and a form of respect to deliver the bad news to the member first. That way the member has an opportunity to adjust to the news before word spreads to his or her fellow workers.
Explain the issue privately. Find a time and place where you can explain your decision in whatever detail is necessary. Discuss the criteria for filing a grievance and why this particular case does not meet the criteria.
Say Yes” to the member’s feelings. Acknowledge the disappointment that the member is probably feeling. Express appreciation for the members’ willingness to try the grievance procedure.
Look for other avenues for addressing the problem. Sometimes stewards can help mediate problems through informal one-on-one meetings between disputing parties. If outside counseling is appropriate, make sure the member knows that resources are available.
Encourage further involvement. If a member has come to you with a problem, it might mean they have the makings of an active union member. Even if the problem doesn’t turn out to be a grievance, look for ways to encourage the member to remain alert to other possible problems in the workplace. Show that you value their effort.