How to File a Complaint to a Labor Union

Filing a Complaint to a Labor Union
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Union employees file a complaint with their labor union when their employer has violated their rights under local, state or federal law; broken the covenants of the labor union contract; or violated their civil rights. A complaint can be filed individually or as a group. When a complaint is filed, a union representative negotiates with the employer on the employee's behalf. Once the complaint is filed, the union takes over the case completely, meaning that the union can close the case or accept a settlement offer without your input.

Collect Evidence

Filing a complaint against your employer through your union is a serious legal matter. Before you file a complaint, gather sufficient evidence to back up your grievance. Document the instance where the violation occurred, including the names of any other employees who were present at the time. Collect any tangible evidence pertinent to the issue, such as time cards, reports, and copies of any disciplinary actions taken against you by your employer. Present your evidence when you file your complaint with the union.

Consult Your Steward

Each union has a representative who works for your company. This person is your union steward and is your direct contact to the union. Talk to your union steward in a timely manner after the violation occurs. Present the steward with your evidence, and state your desire to file a complaint. Your steward will consult the union and file a complaint on your behalf. Your steward also will advise you on the next steps to be taken so that you can advance your grievance legally.

Arrange a Meeting

Your union steward is tasked with resolving the issue with the employer on your behalf. In this role, the steward might arrange a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the violation. You must attend this meeting and be ready to present your case before your supervisor. In the event that the issue cannot be resolved at this point, it may be necessary for the steward to advance the issue through your employer's upper management chain until a settlement is reached or it is determined that a mutual agreement cannot be found.


Once a violation reaches the arbitration stage, it involves lawyers and an impartial judge who serves as arbitrator. Employers prefer that a grievance does not escalate to this stage because arbitration is expensive. During arbitration, you are represented by a lawyer designated by your union. The lawyer presents your grievance and supporting evidence to the judge. Your employer's lawyer is also allowed time to present the employer's case and any supporting evidence. Once both sides are heard, the judge delivers a ruling that both parties must legally abide by.

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