Long-time activist Alan Lamb has been a steward for 30 years – nearly his entire professional career!
Alan is a clinic supervisor for the adult mental health services in Santa Cruz County in Watsonville, and is also a member of our Santa Cruz County bargaining team.
Stewards like Alan perform many roles, but fundamentally they help re-balance the boss-to-worker power structure in the workplace so that frontline staff have a stronger voice at work.
“Often times, management has actually come to me, to try to get help facilitating and mediating communication – to try to resolve issues and keep things from escalating,” says Alan, who acts as a wokplace liaison between staff and management.
TOP STEWARD RESPONSIBILITIES
- Organize co-workers to act together in solving jobsite problems.
- Represent workers in grievance and disciplinary procedures.
- Explain union-wide issues and policies to the membership.
- LISTEN to concerns and complaints raised by co-workers.
- Investigate workplace problems.
A few years ago, Alan assisted a worker to successfully reduce a 30-day suspension: “Renegotiating and reducing the amount of time for a suspension is very important; a lengthy suspension can be devastating to a worker’s job prospects.”
Other situations that come up often result in the steward playing more of a mediator role, to clarify misunderstandings that might lead to a breakdown in communication. “Those misunderstandings don’t necessarily go to the level of a disciplinary action, but they can cause tensions or frictions in the workplace. Often, these situations can be resolved just by sitting down and reviewing the circumstances; it’s my job to facilitate better communication.”
As a steward, Alan also participates in the Labor Management Committee, which periodically meets with management to discuss long-term issues such as workplace safety, facilities issues, problems with roll-out of new technologies, and employee training.
“Staff often ask to have a union steward present for meetings with their supervisor or managers, just to make sure that we’re following due process,” Alan says.
“I would absolutely encourage other members to become stewards. It has been a rewarding facet of my career, and it gives you the opportunity to exercise problem-solving skills in the workplace. I would encourage more members to get involved with our union, to go to a steward training; you may really enjoy it!”
Learn how to become a steward today!
Contact a steward at your worksite and take the free workshops (open to all SEIU 521 members).