Wading In

    Wading Into the Battle The good Union steward at UPS is quite the different creature. Of course, to be a steward takes a number of different talents. Some stewards excel in some areas, while others are strong in different areas.
     The quality, effective, steward maintains most of the following attributes.
     First, and the most obvious is a solid basic knowledge of the Teamsters/UPS contract. On the surface that talent would seem to be as simple as “reading the book”.  Most drivers think anything important is spelled out in the contract book. Of course many of them have never cracked it’s pages other than to use it for toilet paper on a rural route, or as storage for their lottery tickets. The real truth is that the contract is a basic guideline. Many of the important rules the drivers live by have actually been established by the grievance procedure, or past practice. Knowing the contract on the stewards part means being involved with the Local Business Agent, and staying apprised of grievance decisions both at the Local level, and the National Level. Without that knowledge, the steward can be giving bad advice to the drivers as to their rights in a given situation.
    Next is the stewards ability to negotiate. Often in a termination situation, or a major case on a driver, the steward must use their reporte with upper management to negotiate a settlement on behalf of the offending driver. Many times, that negotiation is the best deal a driver is going to get. The closer the decision is to the driver, the more personal it is to the parties involved, and the more caring people are. When it goes upstairs, personalities, and feelings about the individual go out the window, and the case is usually decided strictly on the merits of the case. All of the extraneous information gets tossed to the wind. The steward handbook teaches that the lower level a decision is made in the grievance procedure, the better that decision will be for the driver.
     The last, least known, ability to being a quality steward, is the ability, and desire, to wade into the fight. When a steward notices a driver being ripped in the managers office, with the door closed by himself, does the steward wade into the fight? Does the steward stick his head into the fray, and demand to know what’s going on? Does the steward stop the driver from spilling his guts without a steward present? Does the steward yell back at the manager, telling him he’s not leaving when the manager tries to throw him out of the office?
     All of these talents are what really makes a quality steward. The contract allows the steward to introduce himself into the situation without fear of reprisal. Many stewards shy away from the “Wading In” talents needed. Confrontation is a hard thing for some people. Once management knows the steward is going to get involved, whether they want him involved or not, the conversations between management and the drivers  change. Management will learn that the steward is going to tear up the situation if the steward is not involved in the process from the beginning. Of course the steward will be known as a radical, and a rough guy to deal with, and every other name the company can throw at him.
 Believe me, that is the kind of steward you want as a driver, and if you are a steward, that is the kind of steward you need to be.