On Sept 7th 2012 between 5.30 -7.30 PM The Chicago Newspaper Guild held a training session for its new crop of Shop Stewards, at the Guild’s N. LaSalle Office. Under a new scheme, providing streamlined communication, the Court Interpreters Unit will now have just six stewards, each serving an average of three courthouse locations. In addition to Unit Director Craig Rosenbaum, attending the session were the following Interpreters:
Grace Catania (Polish); Grace Doyle (Polish);
Henry Cheung (Mandarin); Jose Alvarez (Spanish);
Witold Napiorkowski (Polish); Randy Santillian (Spanish)
New Steward Curtis Lemkuhl, represented visual communication employees at the Pioneer Press. Pioneer Press has two other stewards, Chuck Fieldman and Ken Keenan.
The training was conducted by Jerry Minkkinen who served as the Executive Director for the Chicago Newspaper Guild from 1976 through 2008. In Minkkenen’s presentation was the recurrent theme of building an informed and involved membership. This can only be achieved by stewards keeping ever alert for opportunities to engage their colleagues and reinforce with them the functions of the Union, before the inevitable – but unpredictable “fires” have to be put out. Information is crucial, and needs to flow to and from the membership.
Stewards need to make it their business to know all circumstances of any cited workplace rules violations that may occur, and especially including extenuating circumstances. This means keeping abreast of issues in the lives of our membership. This also means earning the trust of fellow members, so that when the contemplating a grievance the steward will be asked to take part in any meeting involving management and employee. This may mean counseling a “screw-up” employee on the side about keeping our noses clean and not giving management ammunition. Of course it also involves practicing what you preach, setting an example and steering clear of obvious problems in your own work habits.
Jerry also reinforced the point that stewards are management’s equals – at any moment when engaged in their union-related duties – and must never allow themselves to be bullied by unscrupulous managers.
We are the Union. All of us – and each of us.