Shop StewardsThe Backbone of the Union
Local 986 Shop Stewards are your elected and appointed co-workers. They diligently work to protect you on the job and serve in the vital position of Union-Management Liaison. Simply put, Shop Stewards are the eyes and the ears of the union.
Shop Stewards have many responsibilities, including:
- Representing union members
- Addressing your concerns and problems
- Fully understanding and answering questions about your contract
- Working with management to solve problems
- Contacting your Business Agent when necessary
- Participating in organizing non-union workers
The union would have a very difficult time providing outstanding representation without the Shop Stewards unselfish and dedicated service to the membership:
- Shop Stewards ensure that an on-the-job union representative is always available to assist members
- They ensure that your rights are not being violated
- They watch out for potential safety problems or other hazards
- They listen to your problems and concerns
- They serve as your first course of action if a work problem arises
Trained and Ready to Assist
Steward Training is Ongoing.... Local 986 is committed to providing ongoing Shop Steward training meetings, seminars and courses to better serve the membership in the workplace. In addition to fully understanding your contract, Stewards are trained in a variety of areas including problem/conflict resolution, communication skills, and grievance handling.
Anytime you have a question or concern, a problem or issue in the workplace, or believe that your rights may have been violated, contact your Shop Steward.
Below is a list of resources and links that will assist you in rounding out your training as a Shop Steward. It can help to further train you or give you a chance to refresh your memory on the issues.
- Rights and Responsibilites
- Weingarten Rights
- Conduct a Meeting
- Chronic Complainer
- Strategies for Stewards
- Investigation Checklist
- Investigation Fact Sheet
- Grievance Preparation
- Well Crafted Grievance
Rights and Responsibilites
Shop Stewards are the backbone of Teamsters Local 986. Stewards are the key to building a strong, democratic labor movement. Throughout the history of this Local Union, Stewards have provided the vital link between the elected officers and officials and the members of every industry represented by Local 986.
Stewards are working Members who represent the Members at their particular terminal or place of employment. They are elected by their respective Membership or appointed in accordance with the rules and regulations contained herein. They are advocates for their brothers and sisters in the workplace and, consequently, they must be accessible to the Members they represent. They are expected to act fairly and impartially and, by example, represent the highest principles of the Trade Union Movement.
Duties of Stewards
The duties of Stewards at their particular terminal or place of employment are:
- To educate Members about the terms and conditions of their collective bargaining agreement and answer questions about the collective bargaining agreement.
- To enforce the collective bargaining agreement with the Employer.
- To require that Members adhere to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.
- To monitor the use of casual employees and new hires and to report to the Union hiring practices that are not in accord with the rules and regulations of the Union and the collective bargaining agreement.
- To work directly with their Business Agent regarding all grievances and disputes, including the investigation and presentation of grievances and the direct representation of Members who are subject to discipline or discharge. When a Member refers a complaint or grievance to his/her Steward, he/she shall accompany that Member into the office for adjustment. If the parties fail to adjust the complaint or grievance, it shall be reduced to writing and referred to the assigned Business Agent. Copies of the written grievance shall be retained by both the Steward and Member.
- To post all official communications from the Union and/or from the assigned Business Agent on the appropriate Union Bulletin Board.
- To report to Members the activities of the Union --- General Membership Meetings, Steward Meetings, Seminars, Craft Meetings, Elections, Political Action Programs, etc.
- To advise Members of the services and opportunities provided by the Union, specifically those which come directly from the collective bargaining agreement and those that come from the Union ---- Health and Welfare and Pension benefits, Retiree Benefits, Dues Check-Off, Sick Benefits, Life Insurance, Teamster Scholarships, etc.
- To advise Members of their obligations to the Union ---- Payment of monthly dues, observance of authorized picket lines, service to the Union in accord with the Picketing/Organizing/Assessment Resolution, etc.
- To endeavor at all times to create favorable conditions and to maintain harmonious co-worker relationships, but, when not possible, to resolve differences or disputes between or among Members.
- To at all times conduct himself/herself in such a manner as to set a good example for the Members they represent and all Members of the Union.
Limits of Authority for Shop Stewards - Stewards serve the interests of the Members at their particular terminal or place of employment. They deserve the prestige and dignity of their calling. The honor and authority granted to them, however, must be exercised judiciously. Abuse of power is not a prerogative of Stewards. They must not act in their own interests first. They must not enter into private agreements with the Employer. They must respect the democratic rights of the Members they represent. They must not exceed the authority granted to them by the Union. Stewards have no authority to take strike action, or any other action interrupting the business of their Employer, except as specifically authorized by official action of the Local Union.
Was That Insubordination?IBT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT STEWARD SERIES
Arbitrators usually look at insubordination as a serious offense and have established a principle of "obey now, grieve later".
In the course of representing members, stewards often must use forceful language. Judges have ruled that this is appropriate and cannot be used as insubordination against the steward.
Employers often view insubordination as one of the "capital" offenses - up there with fighting or stealing. And, as steward you should advise members that the general rule is to obey the order and grieve later. However there are some questions to consider if you find yourself building a case for a member who has been disciplined for an insubordination allegation.
- Was the employee given a direct order? Refusing suggestions, advice and the like may not be insubordination.
- Was the member aware that the supervisor was giving a direct order?
- Was the language clear? An order to stop smoking may mean in the current location or totally stop the behavior - it isn't clear.
- Was the order audible? Many workplaces are noisy.
- Was the member giving any warning about refusal? Sometimes Arbitrators want to know if the supervisor warned the person that the behavior was insubordinate.
- Was there an on-going personality problem between the member and the supervisor? Provocation does not void insubordination but it might mitigate the severity of the discipline.
- Did the member willfully disobey or disregard the order?
- Was the order reasonable?
- Did the member feel as though complying would endanger lives?
- Was the member set-up?
- Did the charge arise out of exercising rights under the collective bargaining agreement or law?
Weingarten RightsThe Right to Union-Representation During an Investigatory Meeting
In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Weingarten decision. In Weingarten, the Supreme Court upheld the NLRB decision (which had been rejected by the Court of Appeals), in NLRB v. J. Weingarten. Inc. that held that Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act was violated if the employer requires the employee to submit to an investigatory interview and denies the employee's request for union representation.
IMPORTANT FACTORS OF WEINGARTEN RIGHTS:
- Union members have the right to a union representative at an investigatory hearing if they reasonably believe that the investigation could lead to disciplinary action.
- The member must request a representative; the employer has no obligation to inform the employee of that right.
- Management does not have to call the representative. Instead, the employer can stop the meeting or just issue the discipline.
- Once a union representative is called, he/she has the following rights:
•to know the subject of the investigatory hearing;
•to confer with the member prior to the hearing;
•to speak/participate in the hearing.
BUT, the representative cannot argue the case; this is not a grievance hearing.
- An employee cannot choose which union representative they would like to represent him/her:
•the department representative will be called, if available;
•if not, the nearest available representative;
•if the employer is responsible for the representative not being available, then the supervisor must end the meeting until the representative is available;
•if the union is responsible for the representative not being available, then another representative or employee can be brought in, unless the supervisor chooses to postpone the meeting.
Conducting Effective MeetingsIBT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT STEWARD SERIES
Making the Meeting Work for You!
Prepare – prepare - prepare!!
Think about the meeting. What is the goal or the meeting? Decide on the three most important things you want to get resolved. Who should be informed of the meeting? Should the member be there? Who needs to be de-briefed after the meeting?
Take a notebook and pen. Jot down questions you need to ask and think about what issues or questions may come up. Think about possible problem areas and develop a strategy for handling them.
Develop an Agenda
If you write down how you want to start the meeting, the key points you want to cover and the way to finalize the outcomes prior to the meeting, you are more likely to maintain control of the meeting.
Stick to your plan during the discussion, don’t get sidetracked.
Use the Meeting to Gather Data
Rather than giving out information, use the meeting as an opportunity to gather data. Ask questions and take notes - repeat back what you have heard and ask for clarification.
Instead of reacting to confrontational information, ask another question, ie,: ‘Why do you say that?’ or ‘Can you give me a specific example?’
Restate any agreements
Write and restate any agreements - once you get what you want – don’t rehash it.
DEALING WITH THE CHRONIC COMPLAINERIBT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT STEWARD SERIES
Almost every steward knows one "the" mad at the world co-worker who hates the union'. People like this can be a real handful. Their anger defies reason. It's almost as if they have nothing else to do but complain and find fault ' about the union's position on issues, its leaders, its failures at the bargaining table or in the grievance process, its dues . . . especially its dues. The list of grievances against the union is usually as long as the complainer's imagination is deep!
It can be a real headache for the steward, who knows better than anyone just how much the union is actually doing. It's not easy putting up with the day-to-day whining of a co-worker, especially when you know so many of the beefs are unjustified.
And it can be a much broader problem if the person is a loud-mouth, as is often the case; he or she becomes a disease-carrying virus who does everything possible to infect co-workers. The drumbeat of anti-union ranting can wear down even the strongest union supporter.
Through the complainer's efforts, non-problems can become problems. Small problems can become big ones.
There are ways to deal with this, but first, remember: you owe it to yourself and your co-workers to take an objective look at every complaint that arises, no matter who it conies from. It may be from a non-stop complainer, but does it have merit' If it does, and you're in a position to help make things right, pursue it. If he fires enough shots, even a blind man will occasionally hit the target. Helping a chronic complainer with a legitimate problem will take you a long way toward moderating future complaints.
But if the complaint is unjustified, or a mountain is being made out of a molehill, you owe it to the union, yourself and your co-workers to deal with it. Here are some ways you might be able to go about it:
Chronic complainers frequently will gripe to everyone around them except people like stewards or union officers, who feel comfortable representing the union's position and know how to respond. Perhaps the next time you hear the complainer bending someone's ear you can step in and set the record straight. If the complainer is confronted head-on, it may slow him down.
In the same way it may be possible to shut down the complainer by confronting him or her in front of number of other workers. Preparing your response in advance, pick some issue he has been griping about. Making someone look foolish is a great way to modify his behavior. It won't make him an ally, but it may make him think twice about making an issue out of every little thing in the future.
You can try getting some of your stronger union co-workers to agree to a common response to the complainer "You know, John (Jane). I'm really tired of hearing your complaints about the union. I think it does okay for us. I don't want to hear this stuff anymore, Okay"
The best solution of all, of course, is to turn the union-hater around. Why does he or she complain so much' Ask. Maybe he had a bad experience with a union once and never got over it. Maybe he really doesn't understand the way the union operates, or the benefits that are a direct result of the union's presence. The next best thing to do with a complainer is to get him to stop. The best thing to do with one is to turn him into a supporter.
Investigation Strategies for Stewards
When a member approaches you with a workplace problem, you'll need a strategy; here are some guidelines to follow:
Take your time and carefully listen to the problem. If you don't have time, tell the member so, and then schedule a convenient time when you can listen without distraction. Encourage the member to talk freely. Ask open-ended questions. Have the member review the facts - more than once, if necessary. Facts may change as more information is provided, or as more time is allowed.
Inform the member as to how you will proceed in resolving the problem. Determine if the problem is grievable; if so, explain how the grievance process works. Go over the Investigative steps required; explain the contract time frames, and the possibility of delay. Be upfront and honest. Never make promises.
Investigate every aspect of the problem. Use the Six Ws (who, what, where, when, why & witnesses). Interview relevant, reliable and helpful witnesses. Seek precedents. Ask questions and keep written records of everything.
Read the Contract
Review the contract for any applicable provisions or language. If the contract is unclear, consult your business agent. Also check memorandum, letters of understanding, work rules, laws and past practices for possible violations.
Before putting the complaint on paper, you need to meet with the immediate supervisor and try to resolve it informally. Settling a workplace problem at the lowest step should be your preferred goal as a steward. If not settled at the informal meeting, then you file a formal grievance in writing.
Writing the Grievance
Before formalizing the grievance in writing, check with the business agent. File it according to the policy and wishes of your local union. Make sure that all the necessary information is provided on the form. Include any other records or evidence you found in while investigating. Write the grievance in clear, concise phrases without giving away any evidence (save that for later.) Be objective - leave out all personal comments, opinions or feelings. And make copies. Remember that during your investigation you asked the Six Ws; when writing the grievance, you have to answer them.
Stewards must conduct themselves professionally at all times. Through preparation, performance and honesty, you will gain the respect of your members and management. Set a good example at the workplace. Do your jobs well and perform your steward duties with integrity. Throughout the grievance procedure, keep your members informed. Good communications builds trust.
A good investigation at the early stages of a grievance can lay the foundation for your case.
Investigate at the first step as if the grievance will go to arbitration. A good investigation will expedite settlement. A good investigation will help build your confidence. This checklist will assist you in completing a good grievance investigation.
____Interview the grievant. Listen carefully to his/her account of the situation
____Interview grievant’s co-workers
____Interview the witnesses and management asking the Six W’s. Get a written signed and dated statement from witnesses.
____Keep written records of all interviews.
____Request a copy of members’ related consultations (if it is a disciplinary grievance).
____Request any other management records needed (personnel policies, payroll records seniority list, attendance records, etc.).
____Determine if the problem affects others in the workplace.
____Determine if filing a grievance is the best strategy for solving the problem.
____Check previous grievance settlements for precedents.
____Check the experience of other stewards in similar cases.
____Seek advice on a regular basis from your Business Agent, Chief Steward or other Union Official.
____Review the case with the grievant.
____Anticipate and prepare for management’s arguments.
____Outline your presentation in writing.
____BE AWARE OF TIME LIMITS IN THE GRIEVANCE PROCEEDURE
Grievance Preparation - 12 PointsIBT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT STEWARD SERIES #5
- Prepare the case beforehand – Have your facts down in writing. Organize and understand your presentation. Be confidant. Anticipate arguments.
- Avoid arguments among union people in the presence of the company – Maintain a united front when meeting with management.
- Stick to the point, avoid getting led off on side issues - Insist on discussing the issue at hand and take notes.
- Get the main point of the companies’ argument – Try to narrow down the area of difference between the union and the company – look for solutions.
- Disagree with dignity- Avoid getting excited, angry or hostile.
- Avoid unnecessary delays – Justice delayed is Justice denied.
- Settle grievances at the lowest possible step of the procedure - Handle them properly, and don’t pass the buck.
- In discipline the ‘burden of proof’ is on management – Insist on the evidence.
- Avoid bluffing – Develop a reputation for honesty.
- Be prompt - follow through on the grievance – uncertainty causes fear and distrust.
- Maintain your position until proven wrong – Avoid hasty conclusion.
- Enforce the contract!! - Insist that the company live up to the terms of the agreement.
Points On Writing A Grievance
LIMIT STATEMENTS TO THE BASIC FACTS
The purpose of the written grievance is to trigger the formal stages of the grievance process and notify the employer of the basic facts alleged Violation and requested remedy. Limit the grievance to those essentials. Use the five Ws as a guide.
RESERVE ARGUMENTS EVIDENCE AND JUSTIFICATIONS FOR FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS
Arguing the merits of the case is reserved for face-to-face meetings. Disclosure of this kind of information in the written grievance could be used by the employer in preparing the case against the Union.
IF REQUIRED BY THE CONTRACT REFER TO ALL CONTRACT VIOLATIONS
If your contract requires including reference to contract language, include all contract provisions that may be applicable. You can use the phrase “violates the contract, including but not limited to Article ___”.This may allow you to add additional violations of the agreement if they are found later.
STATE THE UNIONS POSITION
In clear, affirmative statements, state the union’s position, with the grievant’s or the steward’s ‘opinion’; i.e., “John Smith was unjustly discharged.” Avoid using phrases such as, “I think,” “I believe.”
STATE A FULL, POSSIBLE REMEDY
The purpose of the grievance procedure is to ‘make the grievant whole’ by putting the aggrieved worker in the same position he/she would have been in had the injustice not occurred. If a worker has been discharged, ask that he/she be made whole including immediate reinstatement with full back pay and all rights, privileges and benefits restored, and the entire matter expunged from his/her record. This makes it possible for the grievant to receive his/her job back, plus back pay, seniority, vacation time, fringe benefits etc. REMEMBER, YOU GET ONLY WHAT YOU ASK FOR.
CONSULT WITH THE GRlEVANT
Go over the written grievance with the grievant, explaining what the requested remedy is and make certain the grievant fully understands.
HAVE THE GRIEVANT SIGN THE GRIEVANCE
This guarantees that the grievant has seen and read the grievance and provides legal protection for the union when determining the final settlement of the grievance If the grievance does not concern discipline, the steward may sign a grievance on behalf of the union to stop a contract violation.