As a Union Steward you have distinct ROLES to fulfill:
Problem Solver/ Leader / Communicator / Educator / Organizer
Each of these roles require 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 inter-personal problem that requires assistance by outside experts, you will need to know where and to whom to refer your co-worker to for this type of help. The Union’s Resource Network is extensive so be sure to call the Union Hall for guidance and/or advice.
As a Leader, it is understood that leading by example is the most valid way to receive the respect of your co-worker(s), 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. Giving up your time and lending a caring ear will earn you miles of dividends from the member(s).
Communicating is critical. As your Business Agent strives to make regular work-site visitations for the purpose of meeting and knowing the membership, it is equally important that you keep in touch with the different members working in your building/facility as well. During negotiations and/or 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.
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 of our Union Stewards have been with their company for several years, during this time they have seen and been involved in many matters. Such matters can be spoken about with great validity, since you have lived through changes, grievances and of course the bargaining process. Be generous with your knowledge but do so unobtrusively and with humility.
As an Organizer, you will find the need to do internal as well as external organizing. Internally, it is necessary for the members to reflect solidarity in the eyes of the employer, an image that demonstrates 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 of and look after one another. The company should beware of the “Social Signal” which is the component of behavior or dress that shouts solidarity without speaking a single word. For example, this demonstration may simply be the wearing of our Teamster buttons, hats, jackets, etc.
Externally, each and every one of us needs to be on the alert for good, sound organizing leads so that we may introduce our Union to the disadvantaged non-union elements around us. Often, our members know a friend or relative who work non-union. As the non-union company competes against our Union facilities, they most likely undermine our wage and benefit levels. Our Union wages and benefits are much higher than non-union companies as a rule and consequently, non-union firms undercut Union companies with lower bids on goods and services that they supply in direct competition with you. In short, non-union companies threaten good paying Union jobs. Therefore, as a Steward you should always assist the Local Union in organizing new companies/members.