Volume 4 / Issue 1
To provide quality service to the REAP members with integrity and respect, understanding the member is the priority.
Question: If you were summoned to appear in court, would you ask your neighbor to accompany you or would you seek the services of an attorney? If you chose the attorney, please keep reading.
Too often, big unions feel that by utilizing the “Steward” system, the member is effectively receiving the same service as they would if using an attorney. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Stewards are the big union’s choice for on the job representation. Why? Because it’s no cost to the union! The union would rather spend your dues dollars organizing new members and political activism instead of current member representation. I’ve always been amazed at this dynamic…Good for the union, not so good for the member, but why do the members tolerate it?
So what happens when something goes sideways at work? Imagine this – You’re sitting in your office when all of a sudden your manager or director notifies you that you are the focus of an Internal Investigation or worse yet, you’ve been walked off the property and placed on Administrative Leave. What then? Who do you call, where do you go, and why won’t your union representative return your calls? You are visibly upset, not because you’ve been put on this emotional roller-coaster, although that doesn’t help, but you’re now concerned that your career, your investment with your employer, may not end up like you had planned or hoped. What happens to your future if this situation is not salvageable? What then?
Not to worry…Your “union trained” shop steward is here to help you navigate your way through this mess and put all your fears to rest! If your steward is from one of the larger unions, they will have received a manual that will steer them through all the ups and downs, and how to precisely navigate their way through your case. Here’s one of the manuals I was able to locate online. The most recent document in the bibliography is from 2000. I would venture to say there may have been some changes to the workplace in the past 15 years…
This particular document provides all the necessary information for the steward to help save your job, right? I mean after all, isn’t this what your union is expecting from their fully trained steward? This is how the big unions capitalize on their members…spending the least amount of money possible to advocate and represent the members, while on the other hand, the union is spending foolish amounts of your money to organize new members, so they can generate more revenue to push their political agenda, to organize more members, so they can generate more revenue… it’s just a vicious cycle.
REAP is fortunate to have two Executive Board members that had volunteered their time to SEIU 721 as stewards, Regional Counsel, Riverside County Leadership Counsel (COPE), Grievance Review Board, and Scholarship Award Committee. Very impressive credentials to say the least. These two are highly educated individuals and were able to see SEIU for what they really are. These two know the inner workings and the pitfalls of relying too heavily on the union steward. Read their story here.
All union stewards report directly to the Chief Steward. If asked, there are probably no statistics the Chief Steward could produce to show the wins and losses of how well a steward is doing, like in a college basketball game, but if asked I’m sure they could tell you that yes, the stewards they train are not versed in California Labor Law… You see, the Chief Steward is appointed to those positions, not because they are overly intelligent, but because they are willing to overlook the obvious and can be controlled.
In some instances, these Chief Stewards have even been allowed to become members of the Executive Board. Wait a minute…wouldn’t this be a considered a conflict of interest for the stewards they are supposed to be training? On one hand, the Chief Steward should train the steward to be responsible, to know the Local and International By-Laws, to understand the grievance policy and procedure, to interact with management during the grievance period, and to be fair. How can these things be taught when the Executive Board is lamenting just the opposite – encourage more COPE payments, revise the dues structure, act as if you are truly concerned with the member while in the same thought, think of how foolish those puny members really are…How does any of this make sense and why would intelligent people voluntarily give dues dollars for this type of treatment?
The County of Riverside has many employee associations. Each of them have been able to coexist with management during negotiations. What’s more, these associations, Riverside Sheriff Association (RSA), Law Enforcement Management Unit (LEMU), the Deputy District Attorneys Association (DDAA), continue to provide the employees they represent with quality negotiation and representation because they do just ONE thing different…they use Professionals!
Employees currently represented by SEIU can have that also. We can have the same amicable relationship with management as the other employee associations within the county. But it’s up to each and every employee in the Professional, Para-Professional, Supervisory, Parks and Open Spaces, Waste Management and the Registered Nurses bargaining units, to take an active role in establishing an employee association that will work for all of us. It’s the people that need to take the first step. Get involved. Become active. There are several ways you can help without ever leaving your worksite. Circulate petitions, collect signatures, and make contact with your peers at other worksites. We need to keep each other informed and tuned into what’s going on. Don’t rely on word of mouth if something doesn’t seem right. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
If you need help or just have questions, one of the REAP Executive Board members is just a phone call away or you can reach us by visiting and liking our Facebook page at: Regional Employees Association of Professionals. Please also visit our web site, www.reap4us.org, and register your information. We can also be reached via email at reap4us.com. Whichever is easiest for you to contact us, please do so we can contact you this spring to help with petitions and signature gathering.
Remember: WE’RE ONLY AS STRONG AS THE WEAKEST LINK. TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE THIS A REALITY!
Looking Towards the Future