Grievance Protection Overview
Under the Railway Labor Act, a process for handling disputes is a mandatory part of every contract. As a member you may never have occasion to file a grievance for yourself. But rest assured, AFA-CWA uses the grievance process to uphold the duty we have as the sole collective bargaining representative for our membership.
It often takes many years to negotiate a contract, but the contract language is only as good as our determination to enforce it. Every flight attendant has an obligation to know the contract and to let your grievance representative know when the contract is violated. Sometimes it is necessary to “fly now and grieve later.” If you believe you are being ordered to fly in violation of the contract, you should fill out the “fly under protest” form, giving one to the scheduler or supervisor, and one to the union representative.
Sometimes a provision of the contract is unclear. Sometimes both management and the union have a good faith interpretation of what they agreed to, but nevertheless have a conflicting understanding of what the language means. The neutral arbitrator required under the System Board section of the contract provides the means to make a final and binding decision. Arbitrators then function as a “third” party to the relationship between management and union.
Besides contract interpretation, the grievance process is available to flight attendants who have been disciplined unfairly. There are six basic reasons to claim a discipline fails to meet the standard for “just cause.” When you are called into a meeting you suspect might be for discipline, be sure to take a union representative with you. They can make sure the investigation is conducted fairly. If a grievance is called for, they will file it for you and represent you all the way to resolution.
While grievances may seem adversarial, a mature management recognizes this as part of the role of the union and a necessary process to maintain the integrity of the equal relationship they have with the union. Both parties benefit when language laid down by both parties in the contract, and disciplinary rules generally recognized throughout industry, are enforced in a systematic and businesslike way.