Stewards play a pivotal role at APC. We want to share just what they do for members and give them the recognition they deserve.
The expectation of our chapter leaders and Stewards
There are guidelines or bylaws by which our Stewards abide by. Each chapter has created bylaws (or used the union’s template) and the chapter members review them. After that, Council approves the bylaws of the chapter.
Some of the expectations of the Steward is to implement and enforce our contract at the campus level.
So, if a member or an employee is having difficulty with a performance evaluation, or they want to know how to do an in-range progression or ask for reclassification, that employee would generally go to the Steward and ask for assistance. If a contract violation had indeed occurred, the Steward would then walk them through the process of filing the grievance. Or they may look at how the campus interprets the contract around in-range progressions and/or reclassifications and then assist that employee in filling out the paperwork.
Types of Stewards
There are many different types of Stewards on a campus.
There is the Chief Steward, a General Steward, an Administrative Steward, possibly a Contract Enforcement Steward, a Communications Steward, or Membership Steward. There could be other types of Stewards, and these roles are all outlined and defined in a chapter’s bylaws. The Chief Steward is responsible for the overall function of a chapter. They delegate work to the various elected Stewards that they work with.
The primary role is the Chief Steward. There is a position of Chief Steward available at every campus. Right now, there’s only one campus that doesn’t have any Steward. All the other twenty-two campuses do have a Steward, if not multiple ones.
The Chief Steward is the one that bears overall responsibilities for all aspects of a chapter’s operation -that comes directly from our bylaws.
These are all Stewards that have specific roles based on their titles, so if you were a Membership Steward, your role as a Steward would be to look at your database each month to find out what employees are not dues-paying members and then work to recruit those folks to become members.
If you’re a Communications Steward, you’re primarily responsible for all communications that go out to your chapter. That would be done in collaboration with your Chief Steward and other Stewards on your campus.
If you’re a Contract Enforcement Steward, the Chief Steward might delegate to you the responsibility of working with employees who are saying they have an issue. The Contract Enforcement Steward would work with that employee to find out what the issue is, what article might have been violated, and then work with that employee to either file a grievance or work with HR to address the problem and hopefully find some resolution.
But really, the role of a Steward, no matter what the title is, is to be an advocate for your chapter, to be an advocate for your bargaining unit members, whether they are dues-paying or not. We have to represent all employees within our unit whether they paid union dues or not. That’s the overall role and function of the union, to protect the rights and the working conditions of everyone in our bargaining unit.
Becoming a Steward
So how does one become a Steward? Steward elections happen every two years. It happens through ballot, or sometimes some chapters do it electronically through a survey or a poll. Only dues-paying members can vote as well as take on the Steward role.
If you don’t know your membership status, ask your Steward, they can find out for you. Dues-paying members pay one percent of their monthly income. So, if you’re not paying one-percent dues, you’re not a member.
If you want to become a member, you should reach out to your campus Stewards.
Responsibility of a Steward
The Chief Steward is the one that has overall responsibility for the chapter but does delegate responsibility to the other Stewards.
The Chief Steward and/or other Stewards of a chapter can attend and represent the chapter at the council meeting.
They can do training locally on their campus around various articles of the contract.
They can invite officers or labor relations staff to chapter meetings to talk about specific issues that the campus is interested in talking about.
Why Consider Becoming a Steward
The advocacy may be the most fulfilling part of being a Steward. You get to be involved in making what could be a very bad situation for an employee better and ensuring that they are respected, handled with dignity and grace, and integrity. And that you know HR and the campus is held accountable for potentially bad behavior. Sometimes HR makes mistakes, and sometimes they just need a little nudge to be corrected. Other times, the mistakes are not genuine but actually egregious behavior and completely denying and ignoring the contract.
Many times, people become Stewards because they want to help others, and that really is what your Stewards do. They help their fellow employees. They see that wrongs are getting righted and that they’re trying to make a difference in the working conditions of the people they advocate for.
If you’re interested in becoming a Steward, please contact your local Chief Steward or whatever Steward you have in place. It’s an extremely rewarding position to be in. You build great relations with people.
The other aspect of being a Steward that I found fulfilling was building relationships with people across campus, such as getting to know people and not just my employees but getting to know people in HR or the Dean or the Provost or a Vice President of a division.
If you are interested in being of service to others, then being a Steward is a great way to fulfill that desire. I would encourage anybody who is interested in being a Steward to take that leap.
I’ve heard many people say that they were sort of scared to become a Steward because they were afraid of backlash or relation from their manager or other administrators on campus. While I have seen that to a small degree, most of my experience as a Steward has been really great. And I think that most Stewards in APC would say the same thing.
It’s hard work, but there is a lot of respect that goes with being a Steward. It’s not easy to stand up for and be the voice for people who feel like they’ve been mistreated. But I do believe that part of the benefit of being a Steward is being able to develop those kinds of relationships that help sort of mend the brokenness that sometimes we find on our campuses.