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UBC Stewards First Line of Defense

Steward's Ten Commandments
Dec 05, 2007

A Steward’s Ten Commandments
Regardless of the attitudes of others, you’ll need to conduct yourself in a forthright and positive manner. That’s why it helps to study some of the basic rules of stewardship - call them the Steward’s Ten Commandments. Admittedly, these are not divinely inspired or written, but they deserve to be taken as gospel. They go like this.
1. Thou Shalt Love the Union and Show It
As steward, you are the day-to-day representative of the union. It my sound corny, but for most members, you are the union. You must speak consistently and constantly about your appreciation for the union both in and outside of them workplace.
2. Thou Shalt Know Thyself
Be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses. Being an effective steward is a work in progress. What more do you need to learn? How do you deal with conflict? How do you best communicate with people? How can you be more effective in your role as steward?
3. Thou Shalt Be a Credible Employee
Follow the contract yourself and abide by the rules it sets forth in the workplace. Both management and the workers will be watching how you act to set the example of how they should act.
4. Thou Shalt Talk Straight with the Members
As steward, you will be the bearer of both good and bad news. If you’re straight with your members about what is going on, they will know that they should be straight with you.
5. Thou Shalt Size Up Thine Opposition and Act Accordingly
There’s no one all-purpose way of dealing effectively with management. A good strategy involves a thorough assessment of management’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you should come on like gangbusters with them. Sometimes you should sit in the back row and watch them tear each other up. When your opposition comes from complaining union members - as it surely will from time to time - deal with them respectfully.
6. Thou Shalt Deal with Small Problems Before They Become Big Ones
Strive to settle problems before they become grievances. Strive to settle necessary grievances at the first step. Bring issues of concern to the field representative’s attention when they first occur so you have to strength of the Union behind you.
7. Thou Shalt Prepare Against Surprises
Surprises are great for birthdays, but they can be a real drag at grievance presentations, contract negotiations, meetings with the boss and your own union meetings. Prepare ahead of time for what will be said and done.
8. Thou Shalt Set Limits
A steward is not the slave of the membership. You will be expected to work long and hard and you will want to do so, but you have the right to set limits. It will make you more effective in the long run.
9. Thou Shalt Involve Others in the Work of the Union
The union steward is not a one-person show. The best stewards - the ones whose workplaces have really effective unions - involve others in all kinds of union work including investigating grievances, passing petitions, registering voters, attending labor and community actions, and working with unorganized workers.
10. Thou Must Recognize That The Worksite Is Just Part of the Whole
Stewards need to look beyond the problems of their worksite and become part of organizing on a larger scale for the improvement of workers’ lives. This means that stewards need to be active in their community, in the political process and in other progressive causes and coalitions that organize and promote those improvements.

Rights of a Steward
Dec 05, 2007
Did you know that along with your responsibilities come some rights and privileges. These privileges and rights are granted by law and are found in our collective bargaining agreement.
Northern California Carpenters Master Agreement Protection, Section 14 - Stewards
(1) A steward shall be a working journeyman employee, appointed by the Local Union or District Council of the Union, who shall, in addition to his/her work as a journeyman be permitted to perform, during working hours, such of his/her Union duties as can not be performed at other times. The Union agrees that such duties shall be performed as expeditiously as possible and the Employer agrees that stewards shall be allowed a reasonable amount of time for the performance of such duties. The Business Representative shall notify immediately the individual employer of the appointment of each steward to be confirmed by letter.
(2) No steward shall be laid off or terminated without concurrence of the appropriate Business Representative
except for:
A) Proven dishonesty.
B) Excessive drinking.
C) Chronic failure to report for work.
D) Completion of the carpentry work on the job.
If a steward is discharged as permitted herein, written notice shall be given to the appropriate Local union or District Council defining the reasons for discharge.
(3) Application or violation of this Section shall be subject to Section 51 “Grievance Procedure”.
Why the privileges? The steward’s job often involves confrontation with the employer representative defending the action of an employee, gathering facts and witnesses for a grievance or an accident, or contesting a decision of management. From time to time stewards become vigorous advocates.
National Labor Relations Act Prohibits Employer Interference
Under the National Labor Relations Act stewards and Union officers have a protected legal status. When as a steward you are engaged in representational activities, stewards and union officers are considered equal with management. When a steward acts in his representational capacity doing union business, the relationship is not a “master-servant” relationship but a relationship of company advocates on one side and union advocates on the other side engaged as equal opposing parties in addressing collective bargaining issues.
National Labor Relations Act Prohibits Employer Discrimination
A company can not punish stewards for acting in their representative capacity or for exercising their right to engage in concerted activities. Reprisals against stewards are unfair labor practices. Some common violations of the NO-REPRISAL rule are:
• Segregate stewards from other employees
• Transfer a steward to a different job or shift
• Deprive a steward of overtime or other benefits
• Unfairly give a bad evaluation
• Threaten a steward with physical harm.
Even though a steward enjoys unique legal status and privileges, employers may discipline stewards for representational conduct that is outrageous, indefensible or of such serious character as to render the employee unfit for further service. Further, stewards do not enjoy legal protection if they organize slow downs, work disruptions or contract barred work stoppages. The line between protected and unprotected conduct isn’t precise and supervisors often exaggerate when describing the stewards behavior.

If a steward is not allowed to perform his representational duties and is treated unfairly, the Field Representative will investigate the facts, resolve the situation with management or let the arbitrator decide the issue in a grievance.

Duties & Responsibilities
Nov 29, 2007
Union Steward (aka Shop Steward) is the title of an officeal position within the organizational hierarchy of a labor union.   Its uniqueness lies in the fact that rank-and-file members of the union hold this position voluntarily (through democratic election) by fellow workers or sometimes by appointment of a higher union body) while maintaining their role as an employee of the firm. As a result, the Union Steward becomes a significant link and conduit of information between the union leadership and rank-and-file workers.


The duties of a union steward vary according to each labor union's constitutional mandate for the position. In general, most union stewards perform the following functions:

  • Monitor and enforce the provisions of the collective bargaining  agreement (labor contract) to ensure both the firm and union worker are not violating the terms of the agreement.
  • Ensure that the firm is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws and regulations.
  • Represent and defend fellow workers whom the firm believes violated company policy or the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement, often through the grievance process.
  • Communicate and disseminate official union policy, memos and directives to workers in the shop.
  • Popularize and promote union consciousness and values in the workplace.


Goals of a Steward
Feb 20, 2008
Goals of a Steward
Twenty-five goals that every union steward should strive to achieve.
(The list originated at the Labor Education Program at the University of Missouri, and   has been used and modified by many labor education programs.)

1.         Be a responsible leader. Don't let personalities prejudice your actions.

2.         Be a positive example to your members.

3.         Keep yourself informed about all union matters.

4.         Keep your co-workers informed about union policies and union        activities.  

5.         Meet and greet new workers as soon as they come on the job. Inform      them, educate them, and help them become active members.

6.         Get the people in your work location to act as a union - help them understand that everyone gains when everyone sticks together.  

7.         Attend union meetings. Encourage and bring the members from your       department. Don't get down on members for missing meetings.  Rather, think of other ways to communicate with them about what the union's working on.

8.         Give the membership respect by listening to their problems and       treating them seriously.  

9.         Fight all discrimination. Discourage prejudice of any kind. It does not        belong in a union.

10.      Keep accurate and timely records. Write it down: you never known            when your written notes will help win a grievance or save a job.  

11.      Do not promise what you cannot deliver.

12.      Support union activity everywhere. Solidarity knows no bounds.  

13.      Be an active worker in your union's political action program by       registering members, distributing informational materials and working every day as if it were Election Day eve.

14.      Have current copies of and always be ready to refer to your union             contract, by-laws, and local and international constitutions.  

15.      Encourage and support the union's effort to organize the unorganized.

16.      Be sure your co-workers know of all the services available through           the union.  

17.      Let no anti-union remark go unanswered. Whenever you meet it, fight     the anti-union element with education and information.

18.      If you do not know the answer to a member's question on a union or         contract matter, do not hesitate or stall. Nobody expects you to know             everything. Say you do not know, and then try to get the answer and get back to the member.  

19.      Look for ways to involve the union in community-based activities. If         your local union does not already have a community services committee, you might want to volunteer to help create one.

20.      In dealing with management, remember that you are the elected or         appointed representative of your brothers and sisters. Despite what    management might say or do, when you’re dealing with union  business, you are always management's equal.  

Be proud to be a steward. You are a leader in a movement that affects millions of people and which has a rich history and culture. Learn about it.

Wear your union button and encourage other members to wear it as well.

Investigate every grievance as if it were your own. Keep the member informed. Make sure you keep your deadlines. There is no excuse for missing a deadline or a time limit.

Research every grievance as if it were going to arbitration, but try to resolve it as the lowest possible level. Keep the union informed of the status of each grievance.  

Make labor education an integral part of the local union's daily business. An educated membership and leadership makes a strong union.

Remember that your goal is to be the best union representative you can be.

Steward’s Ten Biggest Mistakes
May 03, 2008

 A good steward is many things – an organizer, a negotiator, a counsellor, a peacemaker and a troublemaker. But there are certain things that a steward must avoid at all costs.

Mistake one – Fail to represent fairly

Not only does this leave the union open to being sued for breaching its duty to provide fair representation, it’s just not the right thing to do. It undermines the whole purpose of the union and the very idea of solidarity.


Mistake two – Make backroom deals

Management is notorious for trying to get stewards to trade grievances. “I’ll let you have this case if you drop the one we talked about yesterday.” Every member deserves a fair shake and every grievance needs to be evaluated on its own merit. Never agree to anything you would be uncomfortable telling your entire membership about.

Mistake three – Promise remedies too quickly

You’re hurting both the member and your credibility if you pass judgement on a grievance prior to a thorough investigation. Only after you have spoken to the grievor and witnesses and consulted the contract, the employer’s rules and past practices are you in a position to make that determination. Given the frequency of poor and mixed arbitration decisions, no steward should ever promise victory.

Mistake four – Fail to speak with new workers

The most important way a union gains the support of a new member or a potential new member is by one-on-one contact with the steward. You not only want to provide new workers with information, but need to build a personal relationship and begin to get them involved in union activities from their first day on the job.

Mistake five – Fail to adhere to time lines

Even the strongest, iron-clad case can be lost if the time line specified in your contract isn’t followed. Even if management agrees to an extension, it is not in the union’s interest to let problems fester and grow. If you do get a formal extension of time limits, be sure to get it in writing.

Mistake six – Let grievance go unfiled

Every grievance that goes unfiled undermines the contract you struggled so hard to win. While most members see changes and problems only in terms of the impact on them, the steward needs to be able to understand a grievance’s impact on the contract and the union as a whole.

Mistake seven – Meet with management alone

When you meet with management alone, suspicions may arise as to what kinds of deals you’re making. It also allows management to lie or change its story. More importantly, when the steward meets with management alone, it takes away an opportunity for members to participate in the union and to understand that it’s really their organization.

Mistake eight – Fail to get settlements in writing

Just as you should protect yourself by not meeting alone with management, be sure to get grievance settlements in writing. Putting the settlement in writing helps clarify the issues and keeps management from backing down on their deal.

Mistake nine – Fail to publicize victories

Publicizing each and every victory is an important way to build your local union. This publicity not only has a chilling effect on the employer, but helps educate your own members on their contractual rights. It also gives you something to celebrate and builds the courage needed to carry on.

Mistake ten – Fail to organize

Stewards are much more than grievance handlers. They are the key people in the local who mobilize the membership, and they must be talkin’ union and fightin’ union all the time. Each and every grievance and incident must be looked at in terms of how it can increase participation, build the union, and create new leaders.

Right to Wear Union
Dec 05, 2007

Membership’s Legal Right to Wear Union

Did you know some people worry about wearing union hats, shirts, buttons, stickers, and insignia at work? They think they can be singed out and disciplined for wearing Union items.

Actually, the law protects and guarantees your right to wear union things at work. The National
Labor Relations Board has ruled, time and again, that wearing these is protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Your union contract also protects this right.

National Labor Relations Act Prohibits Employer Discrimination

An employer cannot discriminate against union buttons while he lets people wear other buttons, for sports teams, the United Way, etc. And he cannot let people wear tee shirts or hats for sports teams and say that similar types of clothing for Unions cannot be worn at work.

If an employer tells you not to wear anything union, or makes you take off anything union, or even threatens to do it, these are “unfair labor practices” under the law, and grievable violations of the union contract. As a steward you should report them to a union representative as soon as it happens so the union can take action to protect your right to speak freely or express yourself whether by button, shirt, hat, or sticker.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, the same statute that protects your right to wear union insignia, also protects your right to talk about the union at work. As long as the talk does not interfere with getting work done, an employer cannot say you can talk about anything and everything you want except the union. Under the act, you have the right to talk about the union and union business to other employees - just make sure it does not interfere with getting work completed. And again, these rights are also protected by your union contract.

National Labor Relations Board Prohibits Employer Interference

The key words in the statute states that am employer commits an unfair labor practice if he interferes with, restrains, or discriminates against you because of any union activities. These works have been interpreted by the NLRB to include everything from limiting talk about the union to firing someone because of union activities. Whenever an employer makes any attempt to impinge on your union activities, think about whether his attempt interferes with, restrains, or coerces you because of those activities, and think about whether it discriminates against you because of your activities.

Then go to your union representative - so that steps are taken to protect your rights under your union contract and under the Act.

These are your rights - use them, or lose them.

Steward Update and Manual
Apr 21, 2008

Steward Tip of the Week
Apr 21, 2008

Rights and Responsibilities of a Union Steward
May 03, 2008

Page Last Updated: Dec 05, 2007 (10:18:30)
United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 405
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