Stewards are the “eyes and ears” of the union – providing an information bridge between their colleagues, departments, and the union. This position creates a pool of collective knowledge for all to drink from.
Stewards are the “hands” of the union – directing colleagues to whatever resources they need to address a workplace issue, and bringing TAA campaigns for a better workplace to those colleagues.
Most importantly, stewards are the “heart” of the union – engaging with the graduates in our departments. Rarely does a single graduate worker or department experience an issue in isolation. The more graduates that are active with the TAA, the more power we have to make the university we want.
Stewards unite at Stewards’ Council (StewCo) meetings, where we gather with graduates from departments across the university. At StewCo we share what we have in common and unite to work for the university we want. StewCo meetings occur every couple of weeks and are a great place to start for new members who want to learn more about the the TAA.
Many departments have more than one active steward, but some departments don’t have any. If you’re not sure who your departmental steward is, or you’re interested in being a steward, contact us!
Serving as a steward for your department
A democratic union depends greatly on its stewards. What do stewards do?
Stewards are available to members in their departments so they can ask questions. Then stewards take responsibility for finding an answer and following up.
The TAA is a volunteer run organization, and it takes work to maintain that tradition. Stewards are the active members ask and encourage members to come to membership meetings, volunteer, join committees, attend rallies, and run for elected office.
Represent members in your department
All TAA members have a right to attend TAA meetings, and can speak their minds about union issues. However, many members don’t (or can’t) attend important meetings. Because of its diversity and the direct contact stewards have with a large number of TAA members, the Stewards’ Council is the closest thing the TAA has to a “representative” body. The Council does not decide things in place of membership (which retains ultimate decision-making power in the union) but it often serves as a forum for sounding out members’ general feelings on important issues. When you attend Council meetings you can speak both as an individual member (and steward) and as representative of members in your department (they may not always be the same). It is critical that you try to keep in touch with your members and to understand how they perceive issues so the Council can make informed decisions about what union members think is important and, in some cases, what kind of information members need in order to understand specific issues. The Stewards’ Council is responsible for designing the union’s education and organizing efforts – for building the union – and without input from individual stewards these campaigns can miss the mark entirely.
Defend the contract
Members in your department should know that you are a resource as they encounter work-related problems or have questions about the contract. As someone “on the ground,” you are also the person best positioned to become aware of potential contract violations in your department, even if other members do not realize their rights are being violated. At a minimum, as an educated steward, you can forward concerns and complaints to the Contract Enforcement Committee. You can also do preliminary intake investigation, or even become involved with Level 1 grievances-if you feel comfortable doing so.
Pass the torch
During your term as steward you’ll learn who the other committed union members in your department are. Before you step down, talk to these activists about taking on the steward position(s) in your department, and recruit a replacement steward.