The Duty of Fair Representation
Suppose that your workplace is flooded by grievances and that your steward misplaces some paperwork and fails to process your grievance in a timely fashion. As regrettable as such an oversight is, some legal cases have found that this is just “mere negligence” and is not enough to violate the union’s legal duty of fair representation. But don’t think that the union has a free ride to decide it won’t carry out its responsibilities capably and fairly. For example, if the reason that your grievance was not processed in a timely way by the union was because of some personal grudge against you, you would have a strong legal claim that the union violated its duty of fair representation. Or if a particular steward or your local union in general has a pattern of failing to process grievances competently, that as well would add up to a strong claim of a breach of the duty of fair representation.
—Adapted from The Union Member's Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer