We tip our union hats to those who serve their co-workers and office as a steward. You accepted the burdens of workplace leadership. A position that is fraught with anxiety, frustration and immediacy, but is also a position that can be truly gratifying as you help and assist your co-workers. That alone is our reward for serving the membership.
Your position is a day-to-day activity of membership contact within your shop. Uniquely, by this position you have the opportunity to be on top of most situations that occur whether it is the company violating the contract or whether the Union business agent is unavailable to be there quickly.
Most members look first to their steward. You are most often available on a daily basis, you have frequent and direct contact with your union office and usually you have been in bargaining and understand intimately the essence of the contract language. Whether you are a new steward or one with years of true experience you have a lot of people relying on you to protect their interests and to enforce their labor agreement.
As a steward you have distinct ROLES to fulfill:
Problem Solver - Each of these roles dictates a level of commitment that you have taken on to be an effective steward. The problems that you encounter are not always related to your current work situation or your labor agreement. Often, a member may have an interpersonal problem that requires assistance by outside experts. You need to know where and to whom to refer your co-worker for the type of help that they may need. Our resource network is useful here so become familiar with its listings.
Leader - As a leader it is understood that to lead by example is the most valid way to receive the respect of your co-worker. Whether it is in the quality of work that you personally perform or the willingness to take on a problem for the member and working it through the grievance procedure with your employer. The giving of your time and lending a caring ear will earn you miles of dividends from the member.
Communicator - Communicating is critical. As your business agent strives to make regular plant visitations for the purpose of knowing the membership, so too it is important that you keep in touch with the different members working in your building. During negotiations and while processing a grievance, it is a particularly critical time for communications. Updating the members as to the bargaining process and status of his/her grievance is vital and expected. Introducing yourself to new members is the first chance to provide that individual with a proper introduction to the union. You are the welcoming liaison for new employees to their union.
Educator - As an educator, you will find it powerfully persuasive to greet your new members as well as current members with the information that they can relate to. Most often our stewards have been with the company for many years. During this time they have seen and been involved with a great many matters. Such matters can be spoken to with great validity since you lived through changes, grievances and of course bargaining. Be generous with your knowledge, but do so unobtrusively and with humility.
Organizer - As an organizer, you will find need to do internal as well as external organizing. Internally, it is necessary for the members to reflect a solidarity in the eyes of the employer, an image that shows that the union is alive and well in their employees. A united front is always the only true way to impose your desires on the employer. You know the different types of power. (Perceived Power, Believed Power and True Power) The behavior in the workplace strongly suggests to the company that we take care and look out for each other so beware! "Social Signal", that component of behavior or dress that shouts solidarity without speaking a single word. This might be the wearing of our Teamsters buttons, hats or jackets. Externally, each and everyone of us needs to be on the alert for good sound leads that we can use to introduce our union to the non-union elements around us. Often, our members know a friend or relative who works non-union. As the non-union company competes with our union facilities, they can't help but to undermine our wage and benefits levels. Our union rates are much higher than non-union firms as a rule and consequently, non-union firms undercut our companies with lower bids on goods and services that they supply in direct competition with you.