One of the most important duties of the Building Representative is the handling of grievances at Step One. Therefore, it is imperative that all Building Representatives become thoroughly familiar with the “Dispute Resolution” sections of the contract, and especially with the paragraphs which deal with the filing of a grievance at the school level. This is found in Article X of the teacher contract and Article V of the paraprofessional, substitute, and ABA contracts.
Put in general terms, a “grievance” is a statement which says that a teacher’s rights have been violated due to a misinterpretation or misapplication of the contract. It is not a general complaint or claim of unfair treatment.
The importance of filing a grievance when applicable is obvious. A grievance must be filed every time an individual teacher’s rights are violated in order to protect the rights of the entire membership.
The following is a list of guidelines which the Building Rep should follow in filing a grievance.
- Gathering information before meeting with the Administrator
- Get all the facts from the teacher(s) involved in the grievance.
- Get copies of all pertinent documents related to the grievance, e.g. bulletins, notices, letters, e-mails, memos, etc. (Building representatives have the right to obtain copies of all official school documents).
- Examine the contract and locate any articles of the contract that have been violated.
- Initial meeting with the Administrator
- Request a meeting with the Administrator and the teacher(s) involved.
- Present the case orally. Show documents and cite the contract violation(s). Explain the Union’s position and request that the violation be resolved.
- It is of the utmost importance that in these meetings the Building Representatives be prepared, be professional and remain courteous (but firm). Do not insult the Administrator or attempt to intimidate him or her in any way. On the other hand, do not approach the Administrator as a subordinate. In this situation, as a representative of the Union the Building Representative is on equal ground with the Administrator.
- Make every effort to reach a resolution consistent with the contract at this meeting. This will save time, work, and money for the Union and possibly considerable inconvenience for the grievant.
- Written Grievance
- If the Administrator is unwilling to resolve the grievance at this meeting, file a written grievance with the Administrator. (Be sure to make several copies of the grievance – one for yourself, one for the grievant and one for the Union office.)
- The grievance letter should be succinct but civil. It should include the following information; Name and position of the grievant, Statement of the grievance, Action requested, and Name of Union Representative. (See sample grievance letter at the end of this section.) Send a copy of the grievance to the appropriate Field Representative.
- Contacting the Union Office
- If the Administrator denies the grievance or fails to respond to the grievance within five school days, a Field Representative should be contacted. You can call 617-288-2000 or email the appropriate Field Rep.
- Send copies of the grievance letter and all pertinent documents to the Union office via email to your Field Representative, via mail to 180 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester, MA 02125 or fax to 617-288-0024.
- The Field Rep will refer the grievance to mediation, and if the grievance is deemed valid by the union, two trained mediators will meet with the grievant and the administrator. If this fails, Step Two of the grievance procedure will be handled by the union’s Executive Vice President.
- While the Grievance is in Progress
- The Building Representative should request the Administrator to put in writing any disputed orders or assignments.
- The Building Representative should not advise a teacher to disobey or ignore an Administrator’s order while a grievance is in progress. This may well hurt the chances for a successful resolution of the grievance and possibly leave the teacher open to charges of insubordination.
- Sample Grievance Letter
Dear Headmaster Washington,
This letter is to inform you that I am filing a grievance at step one on behalf of Mr. John Adams, a member of the English Department at the Jefferson Elementary School. Mr. Adams’s grievance is that on Tuesdays he is assigned to teach periods one, two, three and four totaling 200 minutes.
This program is in violation of the Contract including but not limited to Article V. Section A 3 (d) which states:
“Teachers shall not be required to teach more than 160 minutes without a lunch break, planning and development period, or an administrative duty.”
In order to resolve this contract violation, Mr. Adams must be relieved of one of his four consecutive classes.
B.T.U. Building Representative