|Shop Steward Information - home|
* What a steward should know
* Steward's responsibilities
* The grievance procedure
* Investigating grievances
* Past practice grievances
* Steward rights
* Just cause for discipline
* Breaking in a new boss
* Management rights
As a Steward, youíre elected to protect the rights of other members and defend the contract. Our style is militant and aggressive. Itís the best defense against bosses who try to undermine hard-won gains. To be effective, itís important to know the weapons and protections we have as stewards.
Most of us know our weapons: the contract, the grievance procedure, the Labor Board, and, most important, shop floor unity and organization. Less well-known, perhaps, are the protections we have under the law.
(The rights described here are protected by the Labour Relations Act (LRA). Public sector workers are protected by similar state or federal laws.)
THE EQUALITY RULE
Probably the most important protection is called "The Equality Rule." This rule acknowledges that your job is likely to involve confrontations with managementóconfrontations that could lead to discipline under the normal rules of employer-employee relations.
You can openly disagree and argue vigorously with management during grievance meetings; question managementís authority; and, demand certain actions of management, all without risking disciplinary action.
The "Equality Rule" makes you a "legal equal" to the boss. But, itís in effect only when you are doing your job as a steward, not when youíre acting as an individual employee. Youíre acting officially when you investigate and argue grievances, request information and otherwise defend your members.
There are limits to what you can do, though. Threats of violence and actual violence are prohibited, as are extreme profanity, name calling, and personal attacks. Actions barred by your contract are not protected, either. To prevent supervisors from claiming you "exceeded the limit," itís wise to have another steward or member with you during meetings with management.
The boss is not allowed to use discipline, either real or threatened, or any other form of intimidation to discourage you from doing your job. For example, you canít be denied overtime opportunities, promotions, job transfers, bumping rights, or any other entitlement as punishment for doing an aggressive job. Nor can management assign you to the most undesirable jobs or more closely supervise you than other workers.
Some supervisors try to hold stewards to higher standards than others. "You, of all people, should know the rules," is often a statement heard when some rule has been broken. This is illegal, too. Youíre not a "super-worker" and you canít be singled out for unusual discipline to "set an example" or because you should "know better." The only exception: not carrying out responsibilities required of the union under the contract.
WHAT TO DO
If the boss breaks these rules, there is most likely a contract grievanceóand, an Unfair Labour Practice charge can be filed with the Labour Board.
As in the case of most other grievances, a workplace strategy for solving the problem is often much more effective than dealing with the LRBóespecially because the Board is often frustratingly slow to respond. But, if you feel that a unfair labour practice charge should be filed, talk with your Regional Representative and local officers about the best way to proceed.