Labor unions provide employees a voice in dealings with management. Without a union, employees have little to no power in handling problems such as wage cuts or changes in work conditions. When the employer and the union successfully negotiate the terms of their working arrangement, things typically fare well. But sometimes union members have grievances, and there is a specific method for dealing with a grievance.


A grievance is a problem or dispute that the employee cannot resolve directly with his supervisor. The employee feels the need to request the assistance of the union representative. It is typical that a grievance affects a group rather than just one employee. Technically, a grievance is a violation of the labor contract, also known as the collective bargaining agreement.

Collective Bargaining Agreements

Grievances stem from the perceived violation of an existing collective bargaining agreement. In collective bargaining, union representatives and management come together to create a document that states the expectations for each party. The union files this document, known as a collective bargaining agreement, with the government, putting in place a written record of what both sides have agreed to uphold.

Types of Grievances

The most common grievances filed by union members concern wages, working hours and working conditions. Other common grievances filed by unions deal with a specific action, such as layoffs, reductions in hours, denial of benefits, unfair actions by managers or discipline issues. Grievances can also be related to changes in the workplace. Recently, unions have filed grievances against employers who are threatening to close plants.

Grievance Procedures

Having a procedure in place for resolving employee grievances is one of the greatest benefits of union representation. Each union has its own procedure for dealing with grievances. Often there is a grievance committee to help with problems regarding management. Union representatives present the grievance claim to management and try to resolve the issue within the collective bargaining agreement. If that doesn’t solve the problem, grievances can sometimes be solved with arbitration.