Being a shop steward is truly a work in progress: every day has the potential to present you with a problem you never faced before. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are almost always other stewards you can–and should–consult with when you feel like you need a second opinion. And your Local 1245 Business Representative is ready to give you a hand whenever you get on shaky ground.
You don’t have to know everything to be a steward. But there are a few guiding principles that can help you be a more effective steward:
– Trust yourself. It’s OK not to know everything. Be confident that you can find out what you need to know–because you can!
– Listen to others. No matter how big or small the issue, listen carefully to what the other person has to say. Listening builds trust. Seek out the opinions of members who may be too timid to come forward.
– Don’t shoot from the hip. Research is your friend. You need good information to determine the right course of action.
– Be nosey. Poke around for as much information as you can, especially when researching a grievance. Locate talkative supervisors. Ask for copies of relevant paperwork.
– Respond to members in a timely fashion. If you need more time to conduct research, let the member know you’re still working on the issue.
– Respect each member. Be discreet when sharing information about someone’s discipline or grievance.
– Build the union. Yes, you must defend the person who gets into trouble. But also look for opportunities to unite all members around workplace issues. Help members understand the power of unity–how the union makes them stronger and how they can help make the union stronger. It is especially important to bring this message to new employees as soon as possible.
– Communicate! You are the union’s eyes and ears at the workplace. If you identify problems or issues that need attention, let your union Business Representative know what’s developing.
– Pace yourself for the long haul. Don’t let your union work become too big a burden. Find members who can help with specific tasks. Recruit new candidates for steward.
If you’re not currently a steward, but want to look into it a little further, make time to talk to a steward in your area about his or her responsibilities. Let your Local 1245 Business Representative know if you think you might be interested in being considered for steward.