Everything you want to know about being a Guild steward
What does a Guild steward do?
The main role of a steward is to make sure there is good communication between the members and the union representatives. A steward makes sure union reps are aware of what’s going on in their work area and also reaches out to all members in their area – including and especially new members – to make sure they feel informed and involved. The steward passes on information about union initiatives, such as bargaining, dispute resolution, and meetings with management.
Being a steward is also a great learning opportunity. A steward gets to know the collective agreement, can be involved in discussions to resolve disputes and conflicts, and may serve on various committees. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about how your workplace functions and the kinds of decisions management is making.
Why does the Guild need stewards?
A union’s strength comes from the involvement of its members. Knowing what’s going on in the union and in the workplace empowers all members to ensure their rights are respected and to solve problems quickly and efficiently. The Guild is not simply an elected executive and a staff team. The Guild is everyone. Stewards make and maintain the connections that keep the union functioning for everyone.
What do I need to know?
If you’re reading this, you already have everything you need to be a steward: curiosity and a desire to help your colleagues. As for the rest, you learn as you go. Guild staff and elected reps are always available to answer questions or offer assistance when you need it.
Do I need any special training?
No. But the Guild does encourage members to take advantage of our training and education program. You can learn more about being an effective Guild volunteer, negotiation techniques and resolving disputes.
How much of my time will it eat up?
Much of the work that a steward does can be done easily within the course of an average working day. You probably already do the most important things: talking with colleagues, helping to answer questions, offering a supportive ear when things aren’t going smoothly and keeping up with the latest workplace and union news. You may be asked to participate in union meetings or projects – invitations you can accept according to your own time constraints. Generally, meetings with management are done during work hours and you are released, with pay, from your work duties if you need to attend.
Will being a steward change or hurt my relationship with my boss?
No. In fact, if you’re interested in being a steward, chances are your boss and your colleagues already see you as a leader and someone they can depend on. Acting as a steward certainly won’t change that. It’s entirely possible to be a stellar employee and a good steward at the same time.
Oops. That didn’t cover it? You still have questions?
No problem. You can talk to a member of your Guild executive, or call the national office at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149. And thanks for considering getting more involved in your union!