Periodically, members have concerns about “the way things are done” in the building or district. Oftentimes, the most effective way to let this concern be known is simply by informing the VSTA Unit Leader. The Unit Leader can bring this member’s concern to the appropriate supervisor or building principal, and the issue often is resolved amicably. Other times, the concern cannot be satisfied by the local administrator, and the matter can be brought to the attention of the district through “Educational Consultation.” Members should consult with their Unit Leader whenever they have a question or concern.
Once a month, VSTA representatives get together with the district and building administration through a meeting called “Educational Consultation.” While no negotiations take place at these meetings and while such meetings are primarily devoted to the educational planning of the district(s), any matter of concern to the VSTA and its members or even to the administration or board, may be discussed and hopefully resolved.
An additional avenue of communication between the staff and the district is through a process called “Board Consultation.” The VSTA contract provides that, at least once per semester, the staff (through the VSTA) may share their concerns directly with the school board. The VSTA generally invokes this avenue of communication when the union feels that member concerns cannot or will not be resolved through Educational Consultation.
From time to time a member’s concerns may be over an apparent violation of the contract. In this case, what should the member do? The member should consult with a union building representative as soon as possible to ascertain whether or not there are grounds for a grievance.
Here are some basic rules and definitions with which each member should be familiar:
1. Filing a Grievance is not a privilege; it is a right guaranteed both by contract and law. (An employer may not discriminate against any employee who files a grievance.)
2. A Grievance is defined as any claimed violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of any of the provisions of the agreement.
3. A Grievance must be filed within twenty (20) working days of the occurrence of the alleged grievance.
4. The initial stage of the grievance procedures in the contract is generally informal. (This early informality more often than not allows for the member’s complaint to be resolved quickly since many times the district has merely made an honest mistake and is willing to make the correction without going through the more formal and lengthy grievance procedure.)
5. When there is no resolution at the informal stage, a grievance then becomes a formal procedure. Therefore, it is always important to retain written documents related to the dispute and to be accurate about the facts.
6. There is no cost to any member throughout the Grievance process – either at the local stage or arbitration stage.
7. Arbitration is a stage where both the employer and the union agree on an impartial outside person to hear both the employee’s complaint and the employer’s position and to render an impartial, objective opinion as to who is correct.
For the complete explanation of what is involved in filing a grievance, members should review their contract section titled, “Grievance Procedures.”
Labor Relations Specialists and staff attorneys are available to assist VSTA on an as needed basis, for dismissal proceedings (3020a and Section 75), PERB Hearings, Injunctions, Grievance Hearings and Appeals to the Commissioner of Education as well as other legal matters. Certain legal situations may necessitate members retaining private counsel. Feel free to contact the VSTA office for guidance.