Members are electing new shop stewards and winning stronger union representation from the bottom up.
Shop stewards are the union’s first line of defense. They defend members’ rights under the contract and bring members together to tackle problems collectively.
Does your workplace need stronger union representation? Are you ready to step up as a contract enforcer and shop-floor organizer? Then you may want to elect a new shop steward or become one yourself.
Know the Rules
To elect a new steward, you’ve got to know the rules.
Your local union bylaws define how stewards are chosen.
Not all bylaws require that all stewards be elected. But you can often get your local to hold an election if a majority of members on the relevant seniority list sign a petition asking for one.
Work as a Group
First talk to your coworkers. Find out what they think the key problems are where you work and if they think a shop stewards election could help strengthen union representation.
Get a group together and decide who should run for steward.
Choose wisely. To be effective, stewards need to be trusted workplace leaders. That way, when they speak, management knows they speak for the group.
Try to collect petition signatures from a majority of your coworkers so your local takes your request for steward election seriously.
Once you hit your goal, submit the signatures to your local union. A nomination notice should then be posted, and your candidate(s) officially sign up to run.
Time to Campaign
When the candidates’ names are announced and an election is scheduled, it’s time to campaign.
Have a simple campaign leaflet ready and pass it out.
Do’s and Don’ts
DO pass out leaflets and campaign. Under federal law, you have the right to campaign in non-work areas (the parking lot, break rooms, etc) at non-work times (before or after work, during breaks).
DO explicitly refer to language in your bylaws and contract. If your bylaws outline a process for requesting elections, cite that language in your petition.
DO organize meetings throughout the process. This is your chance to demonstrate the member participation you want to build. Meet, discuss issues, and make plans together.
DON’T just hand out leaflets. Campaign materials are there to help you have a one-on-one organizing conversation.
DON’T make it personal. Focus on the issues that are important to your coworkers and make your positive case for change.
DON’T overcomplicate your message. Your leaflet should include the names and photos of your candidates and three to four bullet points on the issues that matter to members.
Want to run for shop steward? Contact TDU for organizing and legal advice.
TDU also provides educational materials and workshops to arm stewards and members with the tools to enforce their rights. Email TDU at [email protected], or call (313) 842-2600.
“We organized to elect new shop stewards because we weren’t getting any representation at all. Our issues were not taken seriously.
We wanted a workplace in which everyone was respected and heard.
Our contract expires at the end of this year. We’re looking for improvements in raises and the pension. But to do that we need to get on the same page. Our campaign helped us come together as a group.”
Local 572, Los Angeles
Contract Not Being Enforced? Run for Steward
“With a new contract on the horizon, we knew we needed shop stewards who would enforce it.
We fought hard during the contract campaign, but without stronger representation going forward we knew the company would continue to violate the contract despite stronger language.
We had a situation where members weren’t informed about their rights. They didn’t know who their stewards were or how to use the grievance procedure to protect themselves.
Management took advantage, manipulating young drivers, hoping to abuse us for the rest of our careers.
That’s why I decided things needed to change. Our Local union bylaws give us the right to elect our stewards, but that didn’t mean our campaign was easy.
TDU members guided us through the process and prepared us for bumps along the way. With TDU’s help we studied the bylaws, created an election petition, then campaigned.
We took a risk challenging the status quo. But the risk paid off. Our slate of three candidates all won the election.
Now even low seniority drivers are standing up for themselves because they know that we have their backs. There’s never a day where I’m not getting asked something, and that’s a positive in my book."
Local 572, Los Angeles