Union Leader Role


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  • 1. As we begin to explore specific characteristics about leadership, it is important to to summarize several responsibilities of the local union leadership. For those students who have little, if any, experience or association with a labor union it is particularly important to put leadership opportunities on behalf of a union into context.   While most local unions will employ its own staff, the number of staff is usually insufficient to carrying out the responsibilities and duties of the union. A union relies heavily on volunteers. Therefore a union relies heavily on volunteer leadership. Effective leadership and inspiring leadership is essential if the union is to succeed in fulfilling its strategic mission. Therefore, a union will call upon and develop its leaders to carry out the general operations of the union. In general there are 2 categories in which these specific areas of responsibilities may fall. 1 st is the category of union administration, secondly, is the category of union building. Within each of these 2 categories are specific functions that will require the leadership to carry out. First l will point out union administration duties
  • 2. The category of union administration contains four specific areas of responsibility. These four responsibilities include communication, grievance processing, negotiations, and managing the union. In the next slide will take a look at the responsibility of communication.
  • 3. In this slide 5 areas of communication are identified. This is not specifically represent all of the possibilities where our union leader could communicate. These are just examples of responsibilities that a union leader may have in the area of communication. As a communicator a leader will participate in labor management meetings, communicate with the local media, meet with elected government officials, keep members informed, and build membership databases. Arguably, it would be difficult to be an effective leader if the leader is not an effective communicator. To be an effective leader in a labor union, or for that matter any organization, will require that leader to possess competent written and verbal skills. In order to be an effective representative it's necessary to be able to articulate your point of view or your arguments effectively. Sometimes your point of view will be argued in written communication. In negotiations your proposals are presented in a written form but argued in a verbal form. Communication not only involves what to say but knowing how to say it and say it effectively. Tone of voice and body language are important forms of communication. An effective leader will continue to hone and improve their communication skills.
  • 4. Union administration involves the enforcement of the collective bargaining agreement. Collective bargaining agreements contain grievance procedures. This procedure is a process that a bargaining unit member will use in the event that their rights have been violated in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. A union member will depend on a union steward. The steward should be considered a leader in their union. The member depends on their steward to have knowledge about the terms of the agreement and have confidence that the stewards representation will be conscientious and effective. The member depends on the steward or another union officer to enforce and interpret the contract. The steward must be trustworthy and competent. The member wants to feel confident that their rights will be upheld through the representation of their union leader. The member wants to have confidence that their union leader will follow the timelines of the grievance procedure and avoid a dismissal of a grievance because the timelines were not adhered to. And last the member once their union leader to be an effective problem solver. Next we'll look at the role of a negotiator in the category of Union administration.
  • 5. Perhaps effective leadership when preparing for, and engaging in, collective bargaining, also know as negotiations, may be the most important. After all unions are formed to improve the wages, benefits and terms of employment. This is done through the collective bargaining process. Volunteers and staff who represent the members in bargaining are responsible for negotiating contracts. Negotiations typically commence near the end of an expiring contract, as well as during the mid- term of the contract, if the contract has what is known as reopeners. Reopeners, simply allow each party to renegotiate designated provisions of the existing contract. Impact bargaining is another opportunity for union leaders to negotiate. This occurs when management plans to take action on a condition that will impact workers and the circumstances are not addressed in the current collective bargaining agreement. Leaders make decisions that require developing and prioritizing bargaining proposals based on the needs of the membership. Often these decisions require difficult choices since individual members may expect that their issue to be negotiated although the issue does not rise to a collective interest of all or most union members.   Leaders also meet with management on as regular basis to administrate contract enforcement, negotiate contracts, and to discuss labor-management issues. The leader will require effective skills in communication and be trustworthy in their interactions with management.
  • 6. The union local requires administration, included on this slide are just a few examples of leader responsibilities. These duties will include chairing committees, maintaining records, delegating responsibilities and setting up and maintaining a steward system. A leader may be appointed to a grievance committee and may chair that grievance committee. The leader's responsibility will be to gather stewards and officers for the purpose of discussing and reviewing grievances for their merits and determine which grievances should be enforced and which grievance lacks merit.   Leaders will be required to maintain records. These can include anything from grievance files to financial documents that must be filed with the state or federal government. The opportunity to maintain records will exist for every record a union will keep. Records serve as a history of the union's activities. Maintaining these records and storing them in a location where they may be found or transferred to future leaders is essential.   A leader will be called upon to delegate responsibilities. For instance an important leader in a labor union local is the grievance chairperson or chief steward. The chief steward will delegate responsibilities to the stewards for the purposes of filing grievances and enforcing the contract. Delegation is important and essential because the vast responsibilities in contract enforcement may not be effective if it falls on one individual. Therefore delegation is vital to the mission of the union.  
  • 7. I just given you a few examples of the types of duties and responsibilities that accompanies union administration now I'm going to present the types of responsibilities that are applied to union building. Just like Union administration examples these union building examples are in no way complete but are intended to demonstrate and put into context the type of leadership opportunities that exist.   Presented here are 3 examples of union building category 1 is a leader will have the opportunity to serve as an organizer. The leader will have an opportunity to serve as an educator. And the leader will have an opportunity to serve and demonstrate leadership. Now you may ask what does that mean what does the latter mean as a relates to you have an opportunity to be a leader. Now you may ask what does your latter comment mean? Put simply this means that just because someone is considered a leader in title because they have been appointed or elected to a leadership position does not mean that they are necessarily a leader. Leadership must be proven leadership must be accepted from among those who are being led.  
  • 8. Leaders will explain the objectives that the union plans to achieve. Remember an objective is necessary in order 2 fulfill the goals of the union. Objectives will be accomplished through established strategies and fulfilled through tactics. Therefore a union leader must possess the knowledge and the ability to explain the objectives to the members and inspire the participation of the members. Rarely our objectives met without member participation.   When legislation is passed that has an impact in the fact an application to the members of the bargaining unit leaders will be called upon to explain how this legislation will be applied and when it will be applied and why it will be applied. Examples of historical legislation have been the F MLA, which stands for the family medical leave act. Another example is the ADA, which letters stand for the American disabilities act. There are countless examples of worker legislation over the last decades. In fact most of these walls were sponsored by or endorsed by labor unions. Once these walls are passed it becomes incumbent on the unions to explain the legislation to the workers. This is to ensure that the workers have an opportunity to exercise their lawful rights.   9. It is not uncommon for managers and companies to engage in antiunion activities. This could include anything from interfering with the employees rights to engage in lawful union organizing activities to 2 discriminating against a union leader for their participation in grievance representation. Leaders are expected to challenge this type of behavior by enforcing Federal and state laws or applicable contract language. When leadership does not enforce these laws or contract it weekends the union and significantly diminishes route among the union members.   10. As a union educator leaders will have the responsibility for training its officers and stewards. Such trainings can be leadership workshops, know your rights in-service, grievance representation, public speaking, etc. opportunity for educating Union leaders his analysts and an effective union will never ignore or suspend the training of its leadership, as well as its members. Union members should be educated about their contractual rights and their rights under the law and their opportunity to engage in union activities.
  • 11. Organizing is a dynamic process that never ends for a labor union and should never. Along with collective bargaining and contract enforcement, organizing is one of the top 3 essential responsibilities of a labor leader. As an organizer in a local union a leader is responsible for recruiting new members, welcoming new employees, mobilizing the members to engage in activities that give voice to the workers needs. The Union leader will organize workers around workplace issues. And finally a union leader serving as an organizer will work to increase membership involvement. The greater the number of individuals involved in union activities the stronger the union becomes. Again I want to emphasize a leader serving in an organizer capacity is not only essential it is most vital if the union is to be influential and strong. The union rarely is influential if it is not strong. In my own experience some of the greatest and most motivated local members went on to become great Union leaders as a result of their early and inspiring activities in their local union.
  • 10. Leaders have a responsibility to identify, develop and carry out union goals. Such goals require a strategic plan. A strategic plan includes goals, objective, strategy, and tactics. Each of these elements are required if the union is to fulfill its mission. A leader should always be aware of the mission and be involved in the development of the unions goals, objectives, strategies, and its tactics. To put it best as a relates to fulfilling union goals a leader should be not only a player but its own cheerleader.   Leaders must maintain a high degree of integrity. They must be trust worthy. they must be dependable and reliable. There is a saying that I use it simply states: "Be trust worthy without being wholly trusting."   And finally I will and with 4 important and essential recommendations 1st respect others, be available, be a good listener, and develop new leaders.
  • Union Leader Role

    1. 1. Roles of Union Leadership Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    2. 2. Union Administration <ul><li>Communicator </li></ul><ul><li>Grievance Handler </li></ul><ul><li>Bargainer </li></ul><ul><li>Manager </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    3. 3. Communicator <ul><li>Participate in Labor-Mgt. meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate with local media </li></ul><ul><li>Meet with elected government officials </li></ul><ul><li>Keep members informed </li></ul><ul><li>Build a membership database </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    4. 4. Grievance Processing <ul><li>Enforce and interpret contract </li></ul><ul><li>Uphold worker rights </li></ul><ul><li>Track Grievances </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    5. 5. Negotiator <ul><li>Negotiate Term and mid-term contracts </li></ul><ul><li>Impact bargaining </li></ul><ul><li>Develop and prioritizing </li></ul><ul><li>Meet with Management </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    6. 6. Administration <ul><li>Chair Committees </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain records </li></ul><ul><li>Delegate responsbilities </li></ul><ul><li>Set up steward system </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    7. 7. Union Building <ul><li>Organizer </li></ul><ul><li>Educator </li></ul><ul><li>Leader </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor Building Our Union
    8. 8. Educator <ul><li>Explain union objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Interpret legislation </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge anti-union activity </li></ul><ul><li>Train officers and stewards </li></ul><ul><li>Educate union members </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    9. 9. Organizer <ul><li>Recruit new members </li></ul><ul><li>Welcome new employees </li></ul><ul><li>Mobilize members </li></ul><ul><li>Organize around workplace issues </li></ul><ul><li>Increase membership involvement </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor
    10. 10. Leaders <ul><li>Identify union goals </li></ul><ul><li>Create strategic plans </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain high integrity </li></ul><ul><li>Respect others </li></ul><ul><li>Be available </li></ul><ul><li>Be a good listener </li></ul><ul><li>Develop new leaders </li></ul>Jim Walker, LATTC Labor Studies Instructor