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Connections 2004: Local 853 Stewards Learn New Techniques

120 Stewards bring more than 1,500 years of Teamster experience to training seminar

Click here for pictures of the seminar

If you’ve ever been a shop steward, you know how much work you put into that volunteer position. You’re on the front line representing your co-workers to management, usually well before a union rep gets involved. The boss thinks you’re a pain in the neck and your co-workers often feel that you’re not doing enough.

So if there’s no fame or fortune coming their way, why do people volunteer to become stewards? It’s unanimous—people become stewards because they believe in the union and want to be in a position to help their co-workers.

And Local 853 believes in our shop stewards. That’s why the union sponsored an all-day seminar for our stewards. “We always say that our stewards are the backbone of the union, and that’s absolutely true,” said Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise. “Our goals for the seminar were to show some appreciation, give updates about the elections, workers’ comp reform and labor law, and mostly, to teach them how to be as effective as possible representing the members and the union.”

With those goals in mind, more than 120 stewards from 80 different companies attended the annual steward seminar on July 10 at Local 853’s San Leandro union hall. For attending, stewards received leather Local 853 brief cases, along with a Local 853 polo shirt and other items assist them in their duties. All those goals were accomplished and more. “Our members spent a beautiful summer Saturday working on issues,” said Aloise, “but I’m hopeful they got a lot out of it.”

Political push

International Vice President, Chuck Mack told the stewards that Local 853 is one of the more aggressive and progressive Local Unions in the country. He complimented the officers and officials on efforts to register new voters—with more than 80% of members registered, Local 853 ranks among the top in the nation of members who are eligible to vote.

Mack went on to discuss the urge for labor to replace President Bush with John Kerry. He explained the importance of Proposition 72 and of making sure Barbara Boxer is retained as our Senator.

Stewart Boxer, one of Local 853’s workers' compensation attorneys, explained changes in the law covering work related illnesses and injuries to workers. The new law, passed in March, was viewed by legislators as the best compromise they could get. Governor Schwarzenegger was backing a much more anti-worker bill for the November ballot unless the new law was passed when it was.

But compromises aside, Boxer cautioned that the changes are “a disaster” for workers and will result in more misery in attempting to resolve claims. Many of the stewards asked questions so that they would have the right answers for their corkers.

Boxer’s key recommendations are:

1) No matter how minor you think your injury is, you must report it.

2) Pre-designate a doctor. (A form was included in the July/August issue of the Northern California Teamster newspaper.)

Learning about today’s workforce

Are you a Baby Boomer, GenXer, NetGener? As the boomers in the workforce move toward retirement, the younger workers coming up behind them have differing expectations about work, unions and management, and require stewards to use different approaches.

Mary Hardiman, Director of the International’s Education Department, traveled from Washington D.C. to teach stewards about working with today’s "new" workforce. She gave many statistics on how the demographics of the workforce and Teamster membership has changed over the years. Hardiman described different approaches for old and new members, members who speak English as a second language, and members from different cultures.

A full Italian lunch was created by Chef Bhupinder, the former chef to the Italian Embassy, who is now at La Bella Italia Restaurant in San Leandro. Everyone raved about the meal, and most stewards returned for seconds.

After lunch, Barbara Luna, supervising field representative for the National Labor Relations Board, spoke about how to deal with her agency effectively. She explained how workers and Union members could use the NLRB to their advantage and the various in’s and out’s of dealing with the Board. She took questions from a number of stewards about concerns they have in their respective work places.

“Local 853 could not operate effectively without you,” Aloise reminded the stewards as the seminar closed. “Your dedication
and commitment to your fellow workers is the cornerstone of our Union.”

Everyone left more prepared for the upcoming election, better educated, and of course, well fed!

Click here for pictures of the seminar