In this issue, we call attention to the sisters and brothers who make our union healthy and strong at the workplace: the stewards of UFCW Local 99.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of these dedicated stalwarts of solidarity. They are the eyes, ears, voice, heart and spirit of the union in the stores, packing houses, the hospital, the airport, the university or wherever they work.
By promoting unity at work, they help make it possible for the union’s leadership to negotiate contracts that guarantee the rights and welfare of members on the job. And after those contracts are ratified, our stewards are on the scene to inform their co-workers of the agreements’ terms and help ensure that management honors them.
We often use metaphors of the body to describe the various roles of stewards in the workplace. Here are some of them:
Eyes of the union: A steward is always aware of conditions at the workplace. When management fails to meet safety standards or violates the terms of the contract — for example, by applying discipline unfairly or failing to pay a member at the proper wage rate — he or she will attempt to resolve the situation directly. If a simple conversation with management won’t do the trick, the steward contacts a Local 99 union representative for advice or assistance with the grievance process.
Ears of the union: A steward listens sympathetically to the questions and concerns of co-workers and will help with their problems, either on the spot or by referring them to their union representative or to other experts in Local 99’s Membership or Insurance Departments.
Voice of the union: As a union member who is familiar with the contract, the Local 99 steward is in a special position to explain the rules, rights and privileges of the workplace to co-workers. When the union calls on members to participate in meetings, rallies and other activities, the steward is on hand to spread the word. Just as important, the steward will explain the many benefits of union membership to new hires and veterans alike, encouraging them to sign up as members and get involved.
Heart of the union: A Local 99 steward is a trusted part of the union family who truly cares for the welfare of every member at the workplace. Whether a co-worker has a joyful occasion or a tragic event, the steward is there to be supportive and sympathetic.
Spirit of the union: The Local 99 steward embraces the energy and commitment of every proud member of the Labor Movement. In good times and bad, the steward shares the message of union pride and solidarity with co-workers, management and the public.
Please consider becoming a Local 99 steward at your workplace. Taking this step will provide a positive example for your co-workers to emulate, in turn making Local 99 stronger at the workplace and at the bargaining table.
You’ll also find it personally stimulating and rewarding as you learn more about the union and the role it plays in advancing the interests of all working people.
In September, UFCW Local 99 will hold its first Stewards Conference in five years. This will be a golden opportunity for new and experienced stewards to learn about their responsibilities and improve their skills as leaders and communicators.
Ask your union representative for details.
It’s time to step forward and get involved. After all, YOU are UFCW Local 99!