This month, 50 new and veteran Teamsters 856 shop stewards gathered in San Francisco for training to learn new skills and refresh their existing knowledge.
Shop stewards are the backbone of the local union. In one day, a steward can be called on to act as an advocate, a sounding board, a negotiator, a contract expert, a problem solver, and sometimes even a therapist for their coworkers. They are the eyes and ears of Local 856 at work and the first line of defense when problems arise.
Sylvia Shepard has been a dedicated Local 856 shop steward for 40 of her 51 years working at Hertz. She describes shop stewards as a Local 856 resource at work and says attending training remains an important part of what has made her a successful steward. “We notify our coworkers about the benefits of being a Teamster, interpret the contract, answer member’s questions, defend employees, and keep them informed of their rights.”
During training, stewards discussed Weingarten Rights and basic grievance handling. Weingarten Rights are a member’s right to have a union representative present during an investigatory hearing if they reasonably believe the investigation could lead to disciplinary action. Click here to learn more.
Local 856 shop stewards, Kathy Newell (Delta Dental) and Mark Jones (Contra Costa County) sat on a panel to discuss the application of Weingarten Rights in the workplace. “You have a right to union representation,” said Kathy. “I encourage our members to use their right whenever they’re talking to their manager and they think it could lead to discipline.”
Cory Cuartas works for the UFCW Trust Fund. His job is to administer the benefits of union employees. Cory says he became a shop steward two years ago after being on the negotiations team.
“I started as a member of the team and then there was a steward opening,” he said. “I know it’s great to have someone to support you when you’re being questioned by management or facing potential disciplinary issues. I want to help members understand their rights and be present every day to talk about the contract.”
Keisha Clayton is a brand-new shop steward at Delta Dental. She said she attended training to get information on her new role.
“I felt empowered after training because now I have knowledge,” she said. “I want my coworkers to know they can come to me when they have question and I want to be able to speak up for those who don’t realize they have a voice.”
Like Keisha, Lytonya Brown came to training to learn more about the expectation of stewards on-the-job. Lytonya and her Contra Costa County coworkers have been Teamsters for about two years. Lytonya has been a Licensed Vocational Nurse at the Martinez Detention Facility for 19 years.
“I’m outspoken and I don’t back down, so being Teamsters has been major for us,” she said. “We have too many people being walked over and stepped on. Having our union on our side is major.”
The next shop steward training is June 2nd in Oakland. Shop stewards will receive details via email.