The Local 179 union steward is someone who addresses, on a daily basis, the members’ needs, wants, interests and concerns. Most members look first to their steward. 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.
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. The behavior in the workplace strongly suggests to the company that we take care and look out for each other so beware! Like the “Social Signal”, that component of behavior or dress that shouts solidarity without speaking a single word. This might be the wearing of Teamster buttons, hats or jackets. Externally, each and every one 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.
Stewards Role in Filing Grievances
You most likely will be called upon to file periodic grievances. This right is to be protected, but not abused and good judgment should be exercised in applying our responsibilities of providing due process. To help assess the validity of a potential grievance consider the following “Just Cause” standards.
Seven Key Tests to Just Cause:
The basic elements of just cause which different arbitrators have emphasized have been reduced by internationally known labor economist and arbitrator Carroll R. Daugherty to seven tests. These tests, in the form of questions, represent the most specifically articulated analysis of the just cause standard as well as an extremely practical approach.
A “no” answer to one or more of the questions means that just cause either was not satisfied or at least was seriously weakened in that some arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory element was present.
Investigating the Grievance:
Take note of the basics when investigating a grievance. Ask the 6 W’s:
Timing is everything. The sooner you look into a matter the fresher it will be in everyone’s mind. Being on top of things and moving quickly to gather information is a virtue, but not however at the expense of thoroughness. Be detailed as you look into the concerns of the member. Who are the individuals involved in the case? Write them down and gather statements from them as appropriate. First hand information is strong; second hand information is weak by comparison. What exactly occurred? Remember, often times emotion will cloud the issue so take time and get the details and repeat them back for clarity. See what other members know about the case. Where the violation or infraction occurred is sometimes persuasive so be detailed. The When will be important for a couple of reasons. First of all the sooner we gather information the more accurate it typically will be. But more importantly, we need to watch the time elements contained within our labor agreements. These time elements require certain processing steps in order to properly move the grievance along and if we fail to watch those time elements we could lose the right to grieve all together.
Determine why the grievance or event occurred and if appropriate, what provisions of the labor agreement are violated. If no contract provision is obvious, you can file anyway by explaining the concern itself. Interview all known witnesses as soon as possible and record their statement. Listen more that you talk and repeat back to the witness and grievant what you understand them to be saying.
Not all grievance matters are contract violations. Sometimes there might be a violation of a company policy, state, federal or municipal law, past practice, or a consequence of disparate treatment.
In most grievance matters, our stewards and the grievant are encouraged to have a preliminary discussion with the first level of management to determine if they understand the concerns or alleged violation of either party. If this is unsuccessful then a more formal step is to follow.
Duty of Fair Representation for Stewards
Standard of Conduct for Stewards
There is nothing so persuasive for your membership to see than being the example of what leadership should reflect. Look to the following standards for your guide:
Union Steward Handbook
The Teamster steward handbook is a comprehensive guide for today’s Teamster steward. It contains useful information to make your job as union steward a successful and fulfilling position. If you do not have a copy, please contact your business agent or stop by our union office.
Page Last Updated: Jan 13, 2012 (08:08:13)