The Role of Your Union Steward
July 13, 2023
Having a Union Steward is one of the important benefits you gain from belonging to a Union.
Your Union Steward is one of your co-workers who volunteers their time to help employees with any number of issues that come up at work. A Steward helps bring your collective agreement to life and give it meaning by making sure your boss holds up their end of the deal. In doing so, they ensure that Union members receive everything they are entitled to under their agreement.
If you are not sure who your Union Steward is, contact your Union Rep.
Your Steward is someone who will speak to your boss on your behalf: They are your mediator. If something happens at work or you notice a problem, your Union Steward is there to help. In many cases, there might be more than one Steward. In large stores, warehouses and plants, there are often teams of Stewards representing the members.
While you should still report hazards, injuries, and other issues to your employer, always make sure to tell your Union Steward as well.
Maybe you notice that your pay for the week was wrong? Maybe you have Health & Safety concerns about the types of receipts or other thermal printed paper used in the workplace (you can also download the Health & Safety Insight flyer on this topic [link]). Always bring up issues to your Union Steward.
If you don’t tell them what’s going on, they might not know that you, or someone else, needs help or support. Plus, telling them what is happening lets your Steward keep track of recurring or continuing issues.
Your Union Steward may have office hours or certain times of the day when they can go about Union business. In larger workplaces, each shift will likely have its own Steward who may be a full or part-time employee. Make sure you know who the Steward on your shift is and how to get in touch with them.
What does your Union Steward do?
A Steward is responsible for building a strong Union in the workplace and making sure your employer abides by the terms of your Collective Agreement. They do this by:
- Introducing new employees to the Union and their agreement.
- Listening to the employees’ concerns, investigating incidents, and finding solutions.
- Representing the Member’s interests during meetings with the employer.
** Never attend a discipline meeting without a Union Steward present.**
- Posting Union notices to your workplace Union bulletin board (or through other means where necessary). This includes notices for quarterly meetings, training and scholarship opportunities, proposal meetings, and more.
- Discussing workplace issues with the employer regularly.
- Filing grievances when an issue cannot be resolved through discussion.
- Assisting injured workers in Return-to-Work programs.
- Staying in contact with your Union Representative at the UFCW Locals 175 & 633 Regional Office near you.
How do I become a Union Steward?
Union Members get to nominate and elect their workplace Steward(s) for a specific length of time (I.e. four years). During their tenure, those employees will have the opportunity to take Union training to increase their knowledge and skill set to better represent their co-workers.
If you want to become a Steward at your workplace – get involved.
First, know your collective agreement inside and out. Plus. familiarize yourself with:
- Employer policies,
- Any past accepted practices,
- The Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA), and;
- The Employment Standards Act (ESA).
Take and/or apply for training through the Union when it’s available, such as our Members’ Weeklong Paid Training program. [link]
Make sure your co-workers know who you are. You do not have to be a Steward to be a voice of leadership at work. The more employees who know you and your knowledge of the agreement and laws, the better your chances at getting elected for the next term.
When the term for your current Steward(s) is up, there will be an election. Check your Union bulletin board regularly and keep in contact with your Union Representative too, so that they know you are looking to run.
Even if you are not a Steward, you have responsibilities in the workplace too!
If you notice something – like a health and safety hazard – make sure you tell your employer. But, also tell your Union Steward and Health & Safety Committee members too. Again, if you are not sure who your Stewards are, ask around work or contact the Union.