Saturday, February 04, 2006

Steward Training came to San Jose

Role playing excercise

University employees attend steward training for many reasons. Some employees attend to learn their rights, others to help other people, but no matter the reason employees attend, many find steward training really changes their lives. "We want people to come and learn more about representation. Everybody has seen injustices in the workplace. We want people to go away knowing their rights, knowing how to file grievances and help their chapters. The ah-ha happens on a lot of faces," said CSUEU Chief Trainer and Labor Relations Representative Jerrie McIntyre.

On January 20 and 21 the CSUEU held a steward training at the SEIU Local 715 offices on Zanker Road in San Jose. Many new steward trainees from several campuses were there, along with several experienced stewards who helped out in the training and two CSUEU staff members serving as trainers.

Steward training is an important part of what unions do. Unions are all about representation. One way unions represents employees is as a group, through contract negotiations. Once a contractual agreement is secured and a union has a Collective Bargaining Agreement, as we do, the union then represents individual employees through one on one enforcement of the contract. It would be impossible for our union to enforce the terms our contract without having trained union stewards.

"Steward training gives the union trained activists that become able to enforce the contract and defend employee rights," according to CSUEU President Pat Gantt. "There is no better way to impact bargaining than enforcing a current contract. Contract enforcement is a continuation of bargaining and it helps to protect rights and improve future contracts," said Gantt.

"I decided to take steward training so I could understand what it really takes to be a union member," said Michael Bowlin. Bowlin is an Equipment Technician II at the California Maritime Academy who was at the training. According to Bowlin, he has been a union member for 25 years but has never been trained to be a steward.

McIntyre said she joined the union because she saw how the university treated good people during the layoffs in the early 90's. McIntyre has a passion for training stewards and it shows in the quality of her training. "I always learn something from the training sessions, it is never the same. I started out as a sidekick to the former officer in training. Then something clicked in me and between me and the members," McIntyre said. McIntyre has been employed by CSUEU and CSEA for five years. She is also a retired university employee. Before working for CSUEU, McIntyre spent 15 years as a staff member at San Francisco State University.

According to CSUEU Labor Relations Representative Phillip Coonley, the other of the two union trainers at the San Jose training, "Steward training is not just for university employees interested in being a steward. It is a place for employees to learn about the relationship employees have with management and the contract that governs that relationship." Coonley said the training is invaluable and that he couldn't imagine what the union would be like if we didn't train union members to be stewards.

The training covers a two-day period. The first day is an overview of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that is the contract between the California State University and the employees through their union. "When you are functioning as a union steward, you are the equal of management," Coonley told the employees. The second day is mostly role-playing. The steward trainees are given scenarios and go through simulated grievance meetings with experienced stewards who have lots of grievance experience playing the role of mangers. This is a great learning experience and a safe way for steward trainees to put their skills into practice.

The second day is critical. People who attend the training are not certified union stewards unless they attend both days. The union provides release time for the first day, which is a Friday. The second day is a Saturday and the union members are giving up one of their weekend days to learn more about the contract and to become certified as union stewards.

Frances Barron, from the Division of Information Technology at San Francisco State University said, "We need to be absolutely professional as union leaders. We expect the most from our lawyers, doctors and other professionals. The perception I had before getting involved with the union, of the union, was that the union person would go in screaming when meeting with management."

Derek West is a groundsworker from San Jose State University. West was one of many people from SJSU at the training. West said he was at the training because, "I want to help people to try to understand the union is here for us."

After completing the training all the trainees became newly certified union stewards in CSUEU. Carl Baer, the SFSU Chapter Vice-President, coordinated the event and did a great job making it happen.

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