THE ROLE OF AUNION STEWARDTotal Time—2 hoursLearning GoalslDiscuss the challenges and rewards of being a union steward.lConsider the steward’s role in building union power.lLearn more about the role of the steward in all aspects of our union’s work.Sections—TimeI. Welcome, Review Goals of the Training—5 minutesII. Challenges and Rewards of Being a Union Steward—10 minutesIII. Stewards are the Link—10 minutesIV. Ella’s Song—10 minutesV. The Steward’s Role in the “Union Triangle”—10 minutesVI. The Role of Union Stewards: Scenarios—30 minutesVII. The Day-to-Day Work of Stewards—20 minutesVIII. The Steward’s Role in Building Solidarity—15 minutesIX. Skills and Tools Stewards Need—10 minutesMaterials NeededFlip Chart, Markers, TapeCopies of the Steward HandbookHandouts/WorksheetsElla Baker Bio and Ella’s Song HandoutWhat is the Steward’s Role? Worksheet
THE ROLE OF A UNION STEWARDTOTAL TIME: 2 HOURSNOTESI. Goals for the Training—5 minsPost and review the goals for the training:lDiscuss the challenges and rewards of being a union steward.lConsider the steward’s role in building union power.lLearn more about the role of the steward in all aspects of our union’s work.II. Challenges and Rewards of Being a Union Steward—10 minsAsk everyone to use a few words to describe:lThe challenges of being a steward (e.g. stubborn bosses, inactive members)lThe rewards of being a steward (e.g. help members, get solutions)Review the list of words describing the challenges faced by stewards. Ask whetherthey are a good summary and note additions suggested by the participants.Explain how important it is for stewards to meet and share theirapproaches to dealing with these challenges.Review the list of words describing the rewards faced by stewards. Ask whetherthey are a good summary and note additions suggested by the participants.Explain that the reason for listing the rewards is to remind us why we arestewards and to help us get through all of the challenges.Explain that stewards have many roles and that we’re going to discuss thesein more detail.III. The Steward Is the Link—10 minsExplain that many of the challenges people mentioned have to do with thecommon steward experience of being “in the middle.” Ask everyone tolook at page 2 of the Steward Handbook.Ask if this seems similar to the participants’ experience. Note that whilethis can be difficult (refer back to the challenges they named), it’s also partof what’s rewarding about being a steward.Module Icon KeyFlip ChartIdeasIn HandbookWorksheet/Handout1
THE ROLE OF A UNION STEWARDAs the connector, stewards truly are the backbone of the union.Communication between all of these different parties cannot happenwithout a strong steward structure.IV. Ella’s Song—10 minsAsk if anyone’s heard of Ella Baker. Distribute the handout about Baker andElla’s Song and ask for volunteers to read about Baker aloud.Play and/or read the lyrics to Ella’s Song and ask how Ella’s Song appliesto the work of a union steward (answers may include “passing onto othersthat which was passed onto me,” and “not needing the light just to shineon me.”)Explain that Bernice Johnson Reagon and the group Sweet Honey in theRock composed the song, based on Ella Baker’s own words.For a Ella’s Song video, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v U6Uus--gFrcvisitV. The Steward’s Role in the Union Triangle —10 minsPre-chart “the union triangle “ (see page 6 of the Steward Handbook).Explain that the union’s role consists of all three areas represented on thetriangle (representation, organizing and political/community action).Ask what we mean by “representation,” “organizing” and “political/community action.”Explain that “organizing” can be both internal—building the collectivepower of members already in our union, and external—helping workers tojoin our union.Ask the group to think of ways that the steward contributes to each side ofthe triangle and write their answers in the appropriate area of the postedtriangle.Examples of answers: For representation, stewards have a role in accompanyingmembers during disciplinary meetings. For organizing, stewards have arole in volunteering to talk to workers at locations that don’t yet have aunion. For political/community action, stewards have a role in talking withco-workers about important legislation or electoral issues.Point out that the Union Triangle is explained on page 6 of the StewardHandbook.VI. The Role of Union Stewards: Scenarios—30 minsBreak the participants into small groups and ask them to read and discussthe scenarios on the “What is the Steward’s Role?” worksheet.2NOTES
THE ROLE OF A UNION STEWARDTo save time, you may want to assign specific scenarios (and to skip others)to each group.Let the group know that they should select a reporter and have 15 minutesto discuss.After a two minute warning, bring everyone back together and ask thegroups to read and report back on their scenarios.While there is no one correct answer for the scenarios, encourage theparticipants to consider what would best build our union’s power.VII. The Day-to-Day Work of a Steward—20 minsAsk the participants to list the tasks that stewards do day-to-day and chartthe responses. Encourage the group to think about the scenarios justdiscussed.Examples of answers:lAccompany workers at disciplinary meetings with managementlRegister co-workers to votelWelcome/orient new employeeslServe as the “eyes and ears” at the worksite—noticing and investigatingproblemslUpdate the union bulletin boardlHelp to organize workers at locations without unionslOrganize workers to solve problems togetherlHelp to update the union office’s contact information for co-workerslListen to co-workers’ problemslEducate members about important political/community/ legislative issueslInvestigate, write, file grievanceslExplain contract language to co-workerslHelp to mobilize members during contract negotiationslRecruit others to become stewards/to be more involvedNote that different people will be more drawn to certain tasks over others.Ask which of the items on the list contribute most to building our union’spower. Ask if the participants agree that members are the source of ourunion’s power. If so, then the most important role of stewards is to build aunited, organized and involved membership.3NOTES
THE ROLE OF A UNION STEWARDVIII. The Stewards’ Role in Building Solidarity—15 minsExplain that management may try to “divide and conquer” workers basedon age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, race, etc., and that stewards can help tocombat this tactic by bringing workers together across lines of difference.Ask if anyone has tips for how to do this/strategies that they’ve observedother stewards doing and/or have tried themselves. Chart the responses.Explain that language is often a challenge in bringing different groupsof workers together. Since everyone deserves to understand and to beunderstood, stewards can help to identify language needs at the workplaceand within our union.As a steward, you may represent co-workers whose first language is notEnglish (perhaps your own first language is not English).Explain that the language tools we use to accomplish this are interpretationand translation.Sometimes, it may seem like translation and interpretation are new ideas;but for over a century, workers of different nationalities have found ways tojoin together using these approaches.Translation allows written language to be understood in another language.Interpretation allows spoken language to be understood in another language.There are different ways of doing interpretation, and some are moreeffective than others.As a steward, you should discuss the interpretation and translation needsyou observe with your union representative.You can also help to build our union’s strength by recruiting additionalstewards who are bilingual or multilingual.Point out that related information can be found on page 48 of the StewardHandbook.IX. Skills and Tools Stewards Need for Their Roles—10 minsAsk everyone to list the skills (good listener, know the contract, etc.) andtools (copies of the contract, list of members represented, ABC cards, etc.)a steward needs. List the skills and tools on a flip chart.Ask if there are items on the list that people don’t agree are skills or toolsthat a steward needs, and discuss this as a group.Ask the stewards to look at the lists and to assess which of these skills andtools they already have and which they’d like to develop/gain. Encouragean open discussion, noting ways that the local union can assist.4NOTES
WORKSHEET: WHAT IS THE STEWARD’S ROLE?In your small group, read through each of the following situations. List what youwould do as a steward and why. Choose someone to report back to the full group.A. Union staff are working on projects away from your workplace, such as political campaigns,organizing campaigns, etc. Members are complaining that they don’t see the unionrepresentative as often as they used to.B. Members don’t always get along. Sometimes, arguments or even fights break out betweenmembers or groups of members.C. UFCW members who work for your same company in a different location are bargainingtheir contract and they’ve heard that management’s planning to push for major cuts.D. Members come to you with various problems, large and small, individual and collective.These may be suspensions or other disciplinary actions, paycheck errors, poor treatment bysupervisors, new attendance policies, work areas that are too hot or cold, short staffing, etc.The members expect you to “take care of” these problems.E. You and other union activists where you work are looking forward to retirement within thenext few years. The same retirement benefits do not exist, however, for newer hires. Manyof your co-workers hold that the newer hires just don’t understand what the union is allabout. They say that the younger workers just don’t seem to care.F. Many of the members where you work are recent immigrants. While some of them haveexhibited courage in the face of management, many seem to be scared of speaking outabout workplace hazards and discrimination.G. A new employee begins work during your shift.H. Your union has endorsed a great candidate in an upcoming local election—someone whowas once a union member themselves.
THE ROLE OF A UNION STEWARD Total Time—2 hours Learning Goals l Discuss the challenges and rewards of being a union steward. l Consider the steward's role in building union power. l Learn more about the role of the steward in all aspects of our union's work. Sections—Time I. Welcome, Review Goals of the Training—5 minutes II. Challenges and Rewards of Being a Union Steward—10 minutes