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Shop Stewards

I. Important Information

All shop stewards must hold a meeting at your respective company every 2nd Tuesday of month.


II. Guidance on Grievances for All Shop Stewards

Know Your Contract – This is the first commandment for a shop steward.  Read over every word of it.  Go over it at stewards’ meetings.  Discuss it with union officers and the business agent.  Understand how its provisions apply in various circumstances. To know if the Company and the Union are living up to their agreement, you must know what’s in it.  Unless you know what it says, you can not tell a worker if he’s right about it.  You certainly can’t discuss it with management. Keep up-to-date with any arbitration decisions and new interpretations of the different clauses of your contract.

Know The Grievance Procedure – The grievance procedure is the heart of the contract.  Contract enforcement depends upon it. The contract usually provides several steps for settling a grievance.  Know those steps and be sure to keep within the time limit set for each of them. You should never try to skip any of the steps.  It may result in lost time.  Avoid delays.  Unsettled grievances weaken the Union.  Get right on the job with a grievance.

Get The Facts – Is it a grievance?  To properly answer hat question the steward needs to know:

  1. Has the contract been violated?
  2. Has the Company acted unfairly?

If the answer to either question is “yes” you have a real grievance.  If you have a borderline case, give the member the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t go out on a limb promising victory.  Beware of rash promises. If the answer to both questions is “no” don’t be afraid to tell your fellow worker that his complaint is not justified.  Otherwise members are led to expect impossible results. All troubles arising on the job are not grievances.  For example, personal arguments between workers are not grievances and should not be treated as such.

In determining whether a grievance exists getting the answers to the five W’s is most important.

  • WHO – Name, Badge Number?
  • WHEN– Did the grievance happen?
  • WHY– Is it a grievance?
  • WHERE – Did it happen?
  • WHAT – Do you want as a settlement?

In securing the answers to those questions remember facts are what count.  Avoid rumors, opinion and half truths.  Stick to the facts in each case.  If the grievance involves seniority, check seniority records.  When making a wage claim you should be sure if the pay provisions provided under your contract. If after checking the whole situation you are convinced there is a grievance, it is now ready to be written down.

Put the Grievance in Writing – Grievances should only be handled after they are written down.  The written grievances signed by the member, backs up the steward when he argues the case.  The member takes more care in stating his facts when he has to sign them. The difference between winning and losing an appeal in a grievance case may depend on the completeness and accuracy of what’s written on the grievance form. As you write out a grievance, remember that it will be handled by your union representatives who may know only what you tell them.  Write the grievance down carefully and completely. Follow the same procedures every time.

Keep a Record – written grievances can be used to check whether the Company has lived up to the contract.  Records of past settlements can be used as the basis of future settlements.  They build up a valuable addition to the original contract.  The record shows which types of grievances are usually won and which are lost.  This helps fill in loopholes when a  new contract is drafted.  All grievances are worth a written record.

The Grievance Machinery in Operation – Good working relationships between stwards and company foreman are necessary to good labor relations. Avoid building up personal rivalry between yourself and the foreman.  Keep your mind on the job.  Keep the personal element out of the picture. It is plain common sense to try to settle grievances at the first step.  Higher company officials are generally unwilling to overrule the foreman.  Settlement of grievances at the first step also adds to the steward’s reputation.  Your success as a steward depends partly on your ability to handle grievances with the foreman.
Here are some suggestions:

  1. Follow the Rules of the Game.  If, for example, there is a rule that you should check with the foreman before leaving your job to look into a complaint, be sure to do this.  If you expect the foreman to live up to his end of the procedure, you must live up to yours.
  2. Good Faith and fair Play.  Make a sincere effort to see the other side of the story, without losing sight of your own position. Consider each case on its own merits.  Avoid horse-trading on cases.  Don’t brag about victories.  Give the other fellow a chance to save face. You may need to save yours some day.
  3. Use a Positive Approach. When you go into a meeting, know your facts and your rights and stick to them. You are fully protected by your contract in what you are doing. So keep your head, your temper, and your sense of humor.  Be positive and friendly in your approach.
  4. Be a Good Listener.  Don’t talk too much.  Lots of stewards have talked themselves out of winning a case.  Be a good listener.  Often you will pick up information helpful to your case by carefully listening to the foreman.  When you must disagree with the foreman do it with dignity.
  5. Stick to the Facts and Stick to the Point.  Stick to the point in your discussion with the foreman.  Don’t get sidetracked. Fully as important as sticking to the point is sticking to the facts.  Be sure you are presenting your case on the basis of facts.
    Avoid personal cracks as much as possible.  Agree on all the facts you can.  Set forth the exact issues about which you disagree.
  6. Keep a United Union Front. Never disagree in public with your union associates.   When some difference of opinion arises, ask for a recess.  Settle your differences in private.  Keep a united union front.
  7. Don’t Stall.  If you have an unpopular decision to make, make it promptly.  Delay causes unrest and distrust.
  8. No Empty Threats.  Don’t make threats that both you and the foreman know you can’t carry out.  Bluffing is a short-sighted and dangerous tactic for a steward.
  9. Follow Through.  Get a definite answer from the foreman. If his answer is unsatisfactory you can always appeal.  But you must get some sort of answer on which to base an appeal.
  10. Keep Up with Your Cases.  Don’t lose track of your grievance when it leaves your hands during an appeal.  After it has been turned over to your union officials, keep the men you represent informed of what’s happening to the case. Nothing annoys a member more than feeling that his grievance is neglected.

Source: Research Department - EASTERN CONFERENCE OF TEAMSTERS - September 1981