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The contract is only as good as its enforcement. At the school level you, the chapter leader, are the guardian of the contract. One of your roles is to make sure that members are aware of their contractual rights. The rights of members in your school’s chapter may be protected through informal meetings and discussions, or through the more formal avenues of consultation, conciliation or the grievance procedure.

You must decide which is the best route to take in a particular situation, but you need not, and should not, make that decision alone. Your district representative and the staff at the UFT borough offices are there to help you. They have access to grievance precedents, legal advice and the UFT’s grievance department. They also have experience in conflict resolution and alternate ways to resolve both grievances and complaints that cannot be grieved.

Chapter leaders file all Step 1 grievances online on behalf of their members.

Is the problem a grievance?

  • A grievance is a violation of the contract, or of established DOE policy and practice as embodied in bylaws, circulars, personnel memoranda or Chancellor’s Regulations.
  • A grievance is not a violation of a so-called "school policy."
  • A grievance is not a gripe against a fellow worker, a personal disagreement or a non-work-related problem.

It may be necessary to talk to the complainant at length to determine whether or not a grievance exists. Consult the relevant sections of the chapter leader handbook and the appropriate contract to help you decide. It is always a good idea to get in touch with your district representative as well.

In order to file a grievance, the member must be the aggrieved party and the member must adhere to the contractual timeframes to file the grievance. The member should keep copies of all supporting documents relevant to his or her grievance. (You should keep copies as well).

Not all disputes rise to the level of a grievance. If you are sure the problem is not a grievance, explain to the member why it is not a grievance. Recognize the fact that this situation is real for them and that they are seeking your assistance and your guidance. Suggest alternate ways of solving the problem, if you can. Although an out-of-school problem is not a grievance, you may be able to refer a member to someone who can help him or her. If you are unsure as to what guidance to offer, union staff may be able to advise you of other ways to address the issue, such as your UFT Chapter Consultation Committee or conciliation.

More resources

  • The grievance procedure
    Find out about filing a Step 1 grievance, presenting at a Step 1 grievance hearing, filing a Step 2 grievance, and going to arbitration.
  • School reorganization grievances
    When grievances arise out of school reorganization and involve teacher programs or assignment, there are special time limits. Reorganization grievances must be filed within two school days after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint. 
  • Other types of grievances
    Find out about class size grievances, teacher-student ratio grievances for extended session, per session grievances, safety grievances, salary and leave grievances, school reorganization grievances, special complaints and professional conciliation.
  • APPR complaints
    Our contract includes a provision that allows teachers to challenge procedural flaws in their observations and/or other aspects of their evaluation. This “streamlined process to resolve APPR compliance issues” has come to be known as the APPR complaint. 
  • Key arbitration awards
    Read several precedent-setting arbitration decisions that can help you determine what grievances to file and which contract articles to cite.