To be or not to be…a steward

To be or not to be…a steward

By Jan Strickland, Steward, Local 416

In Solidarity Newsletter (for OPSEU Stewards Fall 2014/Winter 2015)

Unions play an important part in society. They fight for democracy through political action. Locals play an important part in the w9orkplace. They collectively bargain with the employer, collectively fight for employees’ rights, and collectively provide input into workplace issues. The strength of a local lies in moving forward collectively. There is strength in numbers.

Locals are led by their own members – called stewards. They are elected officials and form the LEC – Local Executive Committee. A local typically has a president, vice president, chief steward, treasurer, secretary, and stewards. They all work together to make the workplace a better place.

The role of a steward is vital in a unionized environment. He/she is the one who represents the membership. There are many ways a steward can do this:

  • Bringing information to the membership and likewise back to the LEC
  • Representing members in a grievance
  • Sitting on a committee such as accommodation; health and safety, etc.
  • Acquiring education in regard to the collective agreement; role of the steward, bullying , etc., so he/she can in turn educate others
  • Being the intermediator between employees and management
  • Advocating for employees’ rights
  • Being part of the bargaining process

What makes a unionized environment so great is that it works for the betterment of all. It does not give favouritism to a select few. That is why it is important that anyone who wants to be a steward do so for the right reason(s). Hidden and/or personal agendas have no place in a unionized environment. Good qualities of a steward are:

  • Caring about the welfare of others
  • Attending LEC meeting to make sure quorum is met
  • Attending training sessions to increase his or her knowledge base
  • Working with other LEC members for the betterment of the employees
  • Protecting members’ rights
  • Responding, investigating and taking action on member’s concerns
  • Building solidarity and harmonious relationships among co-workers while discouraging gossip and in-fighting

You can make a difference. If you feel you be a contributing member to your Local and possess the qualities needed to be a good steward, than please get involved. OPSEU needs you – your local needs you. Remember: “Together we Stand – Divided we Fall.” If you care, if you have an opinion, if you want to feel good about doing something positive, go to a meeting a get elected as steward, and start making positive changes. You can make a difference in your workplace.