Shop stewards from IBEW local 1245’s new manufacturing unit came together at Weakley Hall on June 18 for their first stewards conference as IBEW 1245 stewards.
These 13 stewards represent more than 500 manufacturing workers at 10 different employers that manufacture everything from museum lighting fixtures to the Mars Curiosity Rover. Most of them are former members of IBEW 2131, the small manufacturing local that merged with Local 1245 earlier this year. The exception is the steward from newly-organized Sunoptics in Sacramento; the workers there voted to join Local 1245 in January of this year and are still negotiating their first contract.
The manufacturing shop stewards work closely with their IBEW 1245 Business Rep, Cruz Serna, while Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas supports the unit behind the scenes as well as at the bargaining table.
“I work with and assist Cruz on the nine manufacturing contracts, and we’re going to have a tenth, as soon as we get an agreement with Sunoptics. Those negotiations are ongoing, and we’re back in bargaining this week,” Thomas told the stewards.
“It’ll be ten contracts in all, maybe more. We’re going out tomorrow night to look at some more [manufacturing] properties to organize. We’re really excited to be back in the business of representing [workers in] manufacturing.”
The conference gave the stewards a chance to learn more about their new union and meet their new union staff and leadership, including Business Manager Tom Dalzell.
“Unions are how we exercise control over our working lives,” Dalzell said to the stewards after explaining a bit about his professional background as a lawyer defending workers’ rights at the UFW and IBEW. “I can tell you that every arbitration I ever won [as a union lawyer] was because of a shop steward. They know much better than the business rep, much better than senior staff, what’s happening in the situation. We as a local make shop stewards a really big part of what we do. They are our key to success.”
At the conference, each steward received a copy of the IBEW 1245 steward’s handbook, along with a refresher course on their workplace rights under the law. They also went over tactics and processes for handling issues they or their co-workers may encounter on the job.
“There are things that we can teach you, resources we can put behind you, training we can give you, but in the end, you’re the ones who are going to be building this [unit],” Dalzell said. “We will do everything we can to make you smarter and stronger, and we’ll be relying on you quite a bit.”