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EDUCATION    officers / stewards / members / workplace issues


A union works best when its membership is involved and informed. An active membership is what truly counts in making gains in contract negotiations, winning grievances, and holding the elected leadership accountable to the membership. The more knowledgeable that members become, the more effective your local will be in improving working conditions. This page describes the essential areas that a member must be aware of in order to play a productive and active role in the life of the union. Remember, "the members run this union".

Know your Local Contract:
The Local Contract is the most important document for a member to have and review. Each member should be aware of the benefits, rules, and procedures for their workplace.

Know your Steward(s):
Members should know who their stewards are, as stewards represent the Union and look after the interests of the workers. If there are questions or concerns about what is going on in the workplace the steward is usually the first one a member should seek out for information and answers. Members should take the opportunity to get to know their steward. Stewards help with protecting and improving working conditions and should be seen as a resource.

Know when your Local has meetings and elections:
One of the best ways to get information, in addition to talking to one's steward, is to become involved and attend membership meetings. A local membership meeting should: 1) involve the membership as much as possible, 2) create opportunities for membership to express their opinions, 3) include time to discuss and decide all important issues, 4) reserve time at the meetings for education/training, and 5) start on time, keep on track, and end on time (1 hour is average). Membership participation in Local elections is key because the membership is deciding on who will represent them in negotiations, grievance meetings, and other important concerns. By getting to know who is running for office, and by voting in elections, you will ensure that your voice is heard in such matters.

Know your Local officers:
The officers are the top leadership of the local. They are involved in all aspects of the Union including but not limited to: handling grievances, contracting negotiations, communicating with District and National Union, keeping track of finances, planning membership meetings, and informing the membership of activities and issues via newsletter/website/flyers. Also, the officers handle the affairs of the local between membership meetings. Those responsibilities include guiding the membership in setting long-term goals for the local and translating those goals into short-term objectives. Without this planning, the local could easily spend most of its time and energy reacting to problems and putting out fires - generating a feeling of no progress. The local officers are instrumental in creating and maintaining a local that is active and that can mobilize members around accomplishing goals that have been adopted by the membership.

Know your Local's constitution:
The Local constitution details the positions and duties of the officers, procedures for the election of officers and delegates, and the rules by which membership meetings are conducted and dues collected. It is important for the membership to know how their local union operates, in order to ensure that the business of the Local is being conducted properly.

Know your Union's History, Structure and Programs:
The membership should seek out information about their union - how it operates, its history and its policies. The UE has a proud history of fighting for the improvement of wages, benefits and working conditions for all men and women. Often UE took the lead in many of these fights. Learn about it and become involved in the UE and the labor movement.