Union Stewards: The Missing Link

Having a union and a contract should not be confused with having an outside organization solve our problems for us. We are the union, and a network of Stewards is an important part of our strength and power.

By building a network of stewards, we greatly increase our capacity as student workers to organize and fight for the issues that affect us, from wages and working conditions to the public mission of the University.

Qualifications Needed: You must be a hard-working person who cares about fellow academic student workers, is committed to standing up against injustice in the workplace, and is dedicated to keeping our union strong and united.

An injury to one is an injury to all!


WHAT IS A UNION STEWARD?

Stewards are often called the “eyes and ears” of the union. Essentially, a steward serves as the connection between the regular members and elected leadership of our local.

Stewards are there to help fellow members figure out solutions to problems with work appointments or working conditions and address questions about rights or benefits. Stewards help to bring any and all member concerns or ideas to the leadership of the local. They are crucial to the functioning of our union because they understand the specificities of academic work in their field (a steward from the humanities might not understand problems about teaching labs!) and because they know the members in their department personally.

Equally important, stewards convey important information from the union back to the membership. For example, if there is an event or meeting being planned by the union, they tell the members in their department about it and can help encourage and facilitate the involvement of members from their department in union events. They can organize departmental meetings with academic student workers to address work issues or organize for labor actions. Finally, a steward can stay in touch with the network of stewards and union leaders on our campus, discussing important issues that may arise between membership meetings and helping to run the union!

WHY SHOULD I BECOME A STEWARD?

The basic responsibilities of a steward are quite simple: to be available to members in your department if they have questions for the union, to keep your eyes open for issues that should be brought to the union and to convey important information from the leadership to the membership. But the limits of what a steward can be are set by your own interests and willingness. If you believe that the academic labor provided by grads and undergrads deserves to be valued by our university and you care about fair and equal treatment for Academic Student Employees, you should be a steward. If you participate in your department’s graduate student council or organization and want to be a representative for your colleagues in the union, you should be a steward. If you have been or want to be engaged as an activist and organizer in the struggle to protect public education, you should be a steward. The list goes on!

WHO CAN BE A STEWARD AND HOW CAN I BECOME ONE?

Any member in good standing of the local can become a steward, so if you’ve ever worked as a GSI, Reader or Tutor and joined the union, you’re eligible, even if you’re not working now. In our local, we can have a steward for every 50 members—we don’t have nearly that many. So if you don’t know of a steward in your department, it’s likely that there isn’t one now, but there should be! In larger departments, you should have several. If you’re interested, come to the next monthly membership meeting and let us know. We’ll set up conversations with new stewards to get you oriented and answer questions, and invite you to a steward training session.

To get in touch email: berkeley@uaw2865.org

One Response to “Union Stewards: The Missing Link”

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  1. off to a busy start… « Academic Workers for a Democratic Union - January 31, 2011

    [...] Become a Steward! [...]

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