Being a Steward is one of the most important roles of any Union. The Steward is a key person in the union and it is within their power to ensure their Local is strong, representative and successful in protecting membership rights. You protect jobs and welfare of your fellow employees and use your leadership skills to build the union. As a Steward, you are the face of the Union and the voice of your co-workers.
Because you are the representative of the Union most accessible to the members, their image of the Union will be determined in a large part by their relationship with you. How you handle your responsibilities, how you respond to your co-workers problems, how conscientious you are in enforcing the contract, will reflect on the image of our local. Most of your education will take place on the job by experiences of resolving problems in your workplace and your ongoing involvement with other Union leaders.
A Stewards position can be very rewarding at times because every accomplishment is a gain for your fellow employees. The satisfaction comes in knowing that you have done your best to build and strengthen your Union and have helped to maintain the best possible working conditions for your Brothers and Sisters.
Are there limits on what co-workers can expect from Union Stewards? Yes. Not everything your co-workers ask from you as a Union Steward will be reasonable. You are not required to be an expert on everything. For instance if a co-worker has a question on benefits, it might be better for them to talk with someone you recommend who is more versed in that field.
New Stewards often feel pressure when confronted with problems and wonder what they have gotten themselves into.
- No Steward wins every grievance. Expect occasional losses and letdowns and learn from the experience
- If you ever hear words of praise and thanks, count yourself lucky
- Be prepared to explain and stick up for the judgements you have made
- You may run into sticky spots so never be afraid to ask for help from other Union officials
- You’ll see members in trouble so try to understand and emphasize and put yourself in their shoes for a moment
- You will make mistakes, your human…own them, learn from them, but don’t let it discourage you