You come together with your coworkers; you nominate and elect union officers; you determine the working conditions and benefits that will be bargained in your contract; and you are part of a larger movement to improve the lives of working men and women in the workplace and in their communities. The more workers join together for the good of all, the more management listens to what they have to say. In union there is strength. Without a union you have only a few rights such as minimum wage, overtime after 40 hours, and unemployment insurance. With a union, you enjoy numerous other benefits guaranteed in a union contract, such as:
- Negotiated wages, health care and retirement plans
- Defined work schedules
- Grievance procedures
- Reasonable workload requirements
- Protection from unfair treatment and favoritism by the boss
- Job security and seniority rights
- A voice on the job to improve working conditions
The 1.3 million-member UFCW is one of the nation’s largest private-sector unions with members working in the retail food, non-food retail, meatpacking, food processing, and manufacturing industries. The UFCW is America‘s neighborhood union with more than 800,000 members working in neighborhood supermarkets across the U.S. and Canada. The UFCW has consistently grown through aggressive organizing in the growth sectors of the North American workforce. Key issues to UFCW members are: health care reform, equal opportunity, ergonomics, overtime pay protection and a right to a voice at work.
You are a leader in your union, your workplace, and your community.
As a leader, the UFCW steward:
- Represents the members
- Works for union goals
- Establishes respect of the members
- Inspires the members
- Acts as a model of fairness
- Enforces union work rules or “enforces the contract”
- Speaks up for members
Your Functions As A Steward
As a steward in the workplace you build our union. You monitor the bargaining agreement between the union and the employer, you solve problems on the job, you file grievances, you work to ensure safety in the workplace, and you organize and mobilize UFCW members. Before we get into more details about your rights and duties as a steward, let us look at the four basic functions of UFCW steward.
Your Rights And Duties As A Steward
Your legal rights and duties as a union steward are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This is the most important law for U.S. workers. It was enacted by Congress in 1935 and it has had several revisions since that time. The NLRA is administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In this guide we will refer to the NLRB simply as the “Board.”
- It is your right, and your duty, to represent members in the early stages of the grievance procedure. You are obligated to begin and follow through on the grievance procedure.
- You are entitled to ask for and get any information from the employer that you need to process a grievance. This includes information to help you decide whether or not to file a grievance.
- When employees ask for you to be at an investigatory interview that may lead to disciplinary action, the Weingarten doctrine is activated:
- You have the right to be there.
- You have the right to advise the employee.
- You have the right to help the employee during the interview with clarification and advice. This is not, however, a negotiation meeting.
- A union steward who is the subject of an investigatory interview has the right to have another steward present.
- You have the right to speak your mind, within certain limits, when you’re acting as union steward.
Your contract MAY give you rights equal to or beyond the legal rights described above. Get acquainted with your contract and find out whether you have:
The right to investigate and handle grievances on paid time.
- The right to circulate in your department or plant.
- The right to take time to post notices on the bulletin board.
- The right to talk with new hires at the time of their orientation.
- The right to unpaid or paid leave for union business including education for union duties.
- The right to be notified of bargaining unit member discipline.
This list does not exhaust all the rights which may be in your contract.