What is a grievance?

A grievance is any dispute between Management and the Union or its members concerning matters covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

Usually, grievances involve disputes arising out of the promotion process, or arising out of discipline contemplated by Management. However, disputes may also involve other collective bargaining matters, such as discrimination and safe work environments.

The complete grievance process is defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) attached to this web page.

Who helps with the litigation of grievances?

Union stewards are the Union designees who provide assistance in the grievance process.

Stewards are volunteers at each work site who have chosen to spend time to learn the grievance process and help co-workers navigate the process. Stewards provide this assistance despite maintaining full client caseloads.

Because all of our members are attorneys, you are expected to take an active roll in the litigation of your grievance. While stewards are volunteers who provide “pro bono” assistance in the process, all of our Union members should actively participate in the grievance process.

When to file a grievance?

Our CBA requires that grievances be filed within “30 days from the time the grievant became aware of the occurrence giving rise to the grievance”

This means that you must complete a grievance form and obtain proper service on Management within 30 days.

How to file a grievance?

To file a grievance, contact the Union Steward at your worksite. Your steward will help you complete the proper form, and will also serve the grievance on Management by obtaining a signature of a Managerial employee on the grievance form.

What happens next?

The CBA contains general guidelines for the litigation of grievances. A grievance has 4 official steps, and a Union member is entitled to Union representation at every step.

  1. Within 10 days of the filing of the grievance, Management must meet with the grievant. This is usually a meeting between the grievant and a direct supervisor. The CBA provides that Management’s decision must be provided within 10 days of the Step 1 meeting.
  2. If the grievance seeks further review of the Step 1 decision, Management must conduct a second hearing within 10 days of the Step 1 decision. This is usually a meeting with members of upper management. Again, the CBA provides that Management’s decision must be provided within 10 days of the Step 2 meeting.
  3. If the grievance seeks further review of the Step 2 decision,a next hearing is held with the designee of the Cook County Human Resources Director. This hearing must be held within 15 days of the Step 2 decision, and a decision must be provided within 15 days of the Step 3 meeting.
  4. Within 30 days of the Step 3 decision, the process of outside arbitration must commence. Arbitration for our members is handled by AFSCME Council 31. At this stage, Council 31 decides whether to proceed with arbitration, and supplies you with an attorney should arbitration be undertaken.

Note that the time limits may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties.

How are disciplinary grievances different?

Prior to Step 1 in a disciplinary grievance procedure, Management may schedule an Investigatory Meeting. At this meeting, Management and the Union usually gather facts to determine whether further proceedings are warranted. Union members are entitled to representation at these meetings.

After an Investigatory Meeting but before a Step 1 hearing, Management must conduct a Pre-Disciplinary Meeting. At this meeting, Management must present all known evidence against a Union member and disclose all reasons for possible disciplinary action. A Union member may, if he or she chooses, attempt to rebut the allegations at this stage in an attempt to prevent further proceedings.

Our CBA provides for only the following expressed forms of discipline, to be used in a progressive manner.


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