Communications Workers of America
Mississippi Alliance of State Employees
"Let the workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America."
US Rep. John L. Lewis GA 5th District
Symbolizes the three major programs of the union. None can stand alone. If the triangle is broken on any side, sooner or later it will be broken on every side.
Representation, day-to-day contract administration and collective bargaining, is the base of the triangle. Yet the other two sides - organizing and community and political action - are just as critical to our strength. Unless we build our union through effective organizing inside existing bargaining units, and by organizing unorganized workers and adding new units, we will continue to be disappointed at the bargaining table. Similarly, unless we have effective community and political action programs, we will not have the kind of popular and legislative support we need to bargain effectively.
The founding president of CWA, Joseph Beirne, called this triangle the "triple threat." As we enter the 21st century, we need to return to our roots and rebuild the triangle in order to defend the rights of our members and their families.
Since 1970, organizing in the U.S., particularly in the private sector, has drastically declined. The percentage of the U.S. workforce which is organized has dropped 30% to 12%. Meanwhile, in Canada, union strength has increased from 30% to 36%. (See chart.) In other industrial countries, the percentage of organized workers is even higher. These data demonstrate that technology and the shift from manufacturing to a service-based economy are not responsible for the decline of unionization in the U.S.
The percentage of organized workers will grow only if our members are actively involved in building their union. Our members must realize the connection between organizing and their families' well-being if we are to reverse this downward trend. Organizing cannot be viewed as a separate activity, but as a key link that increases the power of working men and women and their families.
CWA's organizing strategy relies upon strong local organizing committees who are supported by staff and resources from the international union. Each of us must take on the task of bringing new members into our union. If we are to reverse the decline of the labor movement in the U.S., organizing must be more than a slogan.
Community and Political Action
Organizing in our workplaces must also lead to increased organizing in our communities. Our fundamental goals - job security, an improving standard of living for our families, and real protection for the right to organize - require increased political power as well as more workplace organizing.
Improving our chances of electing candidates who share our vision means that we must align ourselves with family members, members of other unions, and unorganized workers who support our goals. We also increase our political power by building coalitions for better legislation with other labor organizations and also with community-based groups who share a similar outlook.
For example, without political power, healthcare for our families will never be a right guaranteed to all. Instead we will continually struggle to protect our right to healthcare with every contract we bargain, often sacrificing other bargaining goals when healthcare costs rise. Multinational corporations will continue to erode our job security under the guise of deregulation and competition unless we have the political power to restore our rights as workers.
Many of us came to join the union solely for better representation on the job. In fact, that is the primary purpose of the union and remains the base of our triangle. Yet, representation on the job depends heavily on our ability to increase our power through organizing and effective political action.
Bargaining contracts during a time when union membership is decreasing will be increasingly disappointing. It is as if unorganized workers in the same company, industry, or community are sitting on the other side of the bargaining table with management. They are pitted against us as management argues for lower wages and benefits and eliminates job security in the name of efficiency.
Similarly, if our political power is waning, there will be fewer safeguards not only for the right toorganize, but also for the right to strike if necessary. The law will increasingly work against us when we try to mobilize our members and our allies in the fight for justice at the bargaining table. As we attempt to improve our working conditions and bargain new contracts, we all need to enlist new volunteers for organizing and political action.
What can we do?
We increase our commitment to organizing the unorganized, both in our work places and our communities.
We join in when we mobilize for better contracts and as we defend our rights on the job between contracts.
We build the triangle by discussing key issues at regular worksite meetings and in "one-on-ones" with our co-workers. We build it as we become active in organizations in our communities, linking that work back to our union work. We build the triangle as we talk to friends and family members in unorganized workplaces and encourage them to help build the union where they work.
MASE/CWA is divided into 3 State Organizing Regions.
North: north west, north east, north central, Grenada
SouthWest: Delta, Jackson-Central, McComb, Natchez
South: Rankin-Central, Meridian-Central, Jones/Hattiesburg, MS Coast
Each Organizing Regional team consist of four steward/activist and a twenty member organizing committee. Working together the Steward/Activist and OC's build worker power throughout their geographical regions.
CWA membership means representation and a voice on the job every day. At the job site, trained union stewards deal with members’ workplace issues, including handling grievances. Members are further supported by CWA local activists and staff experienced in contract negotiations, workplace health and safety, benefits, education, employee assistance programs (EAP) and more. CWA is a democratic union. Members determine their own bargaining goals, elect their own negotiating committees, and vote to ratify the terms of their own negotiated contracts.
Read more at: http://www.cwa-union.org/pages/about_cwa/
Role of a Union Steward/Activist
As a Steward, you have two main jobs—first, building a strong union in your work place; and, second, grievance handling. You must have a strong union behind you if you’re going to be able to carry on your job of handling grievances effectively. Your attitude and effort you put into your job is what counts. Make it a privilege for your fellow workers to be active union members who attend meetings regularly and willingly pay their dues. Being a know-it-all or overbearing steward doesn’t do this. A lot of it will come about by the example you set. Enthusiasm and sincerity are contagious. You can always sell better what you believe in yourself.
“Know your contract!” This is the first commandment for the steward. Read over every word of it. Discuss it with union officers. Become familiar with the provisions. Understand how they apply to special conditions in your department. Your fellow workers don’t expect you to know everything, and they respect you a lot more if you don’t try to bluff your way out of things. But they do expect, as their leader, to be well informed. To educate workers so they understand and cooperate with union policies, you must first educate yourself.
As steward, you have to do a lot of the day to day work. But if you are a good leader, you’ll get cooperation from your fellow workers and your union officials as well as from management and this helps make the job easier. The keystone of the local union may be the stepping stone to greater union leadership.
Unions Stewards are:
The primary negotiating task of the steward is the handling of grievances. You will learn proper grievance handling and how to settle grievances. Check all available facts before taking an issue to management. Prepare your case so that it is clear, complete and to the point. Be careful to observe all contract requirements on grievance handling. In dealing with your supervisor be business-like, polite and firm; don’t bully or threaten and treat the other person with respect and demand you be treated in the same manner. Keep the member(s) informed as to the status of the grievance. Follow through all the way to final settlement and make sure to keep complete and accurate records.
Who help mobilize members into action, encourage co-workers to come to meetings, and introduce themselves to new members.
Who explain to members the importance of working union and how to make the Union Contract work for you. Education is a two way process. Stewards learn from the members about the issues happening in the workplace. The steward has the responsibility of educating the members in his/her department, both the old and the new, about the collective bargaining agreement, union policy, and why changes occurred. Stewards keep the members informed about what happens at union meetings, community actions and other union activities. Stewards set examples for workplace fairness.
Who represent members at grievances and ensure just cause is met for disciplinary actions. Members rely on Stewards to represent their needs and concerns.
You’re the person workers turn to with their problems. It might be a work-site hazard. Maybe someone’s being investigated or disciplined. It might be just a new employee with a question. Perhaps you can solve the problem with a friendly talk, or maybe you’ll organize a work-site action or even file a grievance. You are the work-group leader.
You’re the one who keeps it moving. You’re the one who’s not afraid to speak up to management. You make unityhappen, and you never let anyone forget there’s a union at your work-site. The steward must take the leadership role in his/her department. He/She must set an example for other workers to follow. The steward must make decisions which uphold the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and the union constitution and bylaws.
Goals of a Steward
The following twenty items will serve as a checklist for you. Refer to them as a guide in fulfilling your obligation as Union Steward.
Stay informed on union affairs.
Serve as an example to your members.
Keep the members informed on union policies and activities.
Attend union meetings and union affairs. Encourage and bring the members.
Meet the new members early, inform them, educate them, help them become members.
Act as a leader – do not let personal likes or dislikes prejudice your actions as a grievance representative.
Keep accurate and up-to-date records. Write it down.
Do not promise, if you cannot deliver.
Always refer to your contract.
Get involved with committees.
Fight, whenever you meet it, the anti-union element. Be informed and be dedicated to the labor movement.
Do not hesitate or stall. If you do not know, admit you do not know. Then try to get the answer.
Keep your workers informed on sources of information.
Be proud of your position.
Wear your union button and encourage your coworkers to wear one as well. It’s a sign of unity.
Investigate every grievance as if it were your own. Keep the member informed. Make sure you keep your deadlines.
There is no excuse for missing a time limit. Process every grievance as if it were going to arbitration but try to resolve it at the lowest possible level.
You should always be diplomatic in your approach with management. This will foster a good working relationship.
Never consider yourself to be inferior to management representatives. You are always their equal.
Attend and encourage other members to attend any labor education programs that might be available. Your goal is to be the best union representative you can be. Always strive for this goal. Excellence has no substitute.