Union Stewards Guide to
"One who manages the domestic concerns of a family or institution…One who superintends another's affairs…One who helps in arrangements…Marshaling…An overseer… A foreman." Webster
Our focus is to give assistance to our hundreds of shop stewards who are helping hundreds and thousands of union members throughout Local 77. We tip our union hats to you who serve your co-workers and this office. You accepted the burdens of workplace leadership. A position that is fraught with anxiety and frustration but without glory, but is also a position that can be truly gratifying as you help and assist your coworkers. 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
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 you 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 is it 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.
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 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.
1. NOTICE: "Did the Employer give to the employee forewarning or foreknowledge of the possible consequences of the employee's disciplinary conduct?"
2. REASONABLE RULE OR ORDER: "Was the Employer's rules or managerial order reasonably related to (a) the orderly, efficient, and safe operation of the Employer's business, and (b) the performance that the Employer might properly expect of the Employee?"
3. INVESTIGATION: "Did the Employer, before administering the discipline to an employee, make an effort to discover whether the employee did in fact violate or disobey a rule or order of management?"
4. FAIR INVESTIGATION: "Was the Employer's investigation conducted fairly and objectively?"
5. PROOF: "At the investigation, did the 'judge' obtain substantial evidence or proof that the employee was guilty as charged?"
6. EQUAL TREATMENT: "Has the Employer applied its rules, orders and penalties even-handedly and without discrimination to all employees?"
7. PENALTY: "Was the degree of discipline administered by the Employer in a particular case reasonably related to (a) the seriousness of the employee's proven offense, and (b) the record of the employee in his service with the Employer?"
The Stewards Role
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. 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.
* NEVER REFUSE TO FILE A GRIEVANCE
* WHEN IN DOUBT FILE
* IF SHORT TIME PERIODS REMAIN - HAND-CARRY THE GRIEVANCE TO MANAGEMENT
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 statements. Listen more than you talk and repeat back to the witness and grievant what you understand them 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.
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