Teamsters Local 162
What is a Shop Steward & Tools of the Trade
Updated On: May 03, 2010


A shop steward is the union’s on-the-job representative. The first line of defense in dealing with management in the workplace and answering members questions. A steward has an understanding of the union, contract, members, and company. A steward is not necessarily popular with either management or all of the members – but is respected by both sides.


Everyone should know that you are a steward and what your role is. Introduce yourself to new members, either when they are first hired or when they reach seniority. A simple introduction works best. 

Give new members a “My Weingarten Rights” card for them to carry in their wallet, and let them know it is essential that you be present when management has called them in to discuss possible discipline.

Encourage members to attend the monthly General Membership meetings, and new members to attend the Union initiation meeting.  Encourage members to contact you first with any questions or potential grievances.


Understand the issue as it relates to the contract before discussing it with management.  Find out what actually happened before approaching management.  Presenting an argument with only part of the story can damage your credibility.  Be professional and don’t take things personally.  A straight-forward honest approach is best.  Avoid making blanket statements. 

State your case as concisely as possible.  Understand how similar situations have been handled in the past and how they relate to the issue at hand.  Listen more than you talk. You may not agree with what management is saying, but you need to listen closely to what they have to say – you will need to know their side of the story to build a stronger case if you have to file a grievance.  When management draws a line in the sand and takes their position your recourse is the grievance procedure.  Save any lengthy discussion for the grievance meeting with your union representative and upper management.


To be used by Shop Stewards when representing members in disciplinary and investigatory interviews:   

1. What is the meeting about? Ask management prior to involving the represented member.

2. Talk to the member to be interviewed. Tell them what the meeting is about and get the members version of the story.

3. Advise the member to answer questions honestly and briefly.

4. Take good notes, who’s there, time, date and what was said.

5. Make sure in the meeting that all questions are confined to the topic originally outlined by management.

6. Tell management the question has already been asked and answered if they repeat the same question over and over.

7. Call for a Union caucus with your member whenever needed.


Who: Who is involved in the grievance? Name(s), facility, shift, seniority date, job classification, etc.

What: What happened? Seniority violation, subcontracting, supervisors working, etc?

When: Dates and times?

Where: Where did the infraction take place? Location, department or area.

Why: Is it a violation of the collective bargaining agreement or law? Is it a violation of a long established past practice recognized by both the Union and the Employer? Is it disparate treatment compared to the way other employees are treated?

How: What is the remedy you are seeking to resolve the grievance? “


STOP TALKING – you can’t listen while you are talking.

EMPATHIZE WITH OTHER PERSON – try to put yourself in his/her place so that you can see what he/she is trying to get at.

ASK QUESTIONS – when you don’t understand, when you need further clarification, when you want to show you are listening. Asking questions that will embarrass the person or show the person up can be counterproductive.

DON’T INTERRUPT– Give the other person the time to say what they have to say.

CONCENTRATE ON WHAT THE PERSON IS SAYING – actively focus your attention on his/her words, ideas and feelings related to the subject.

LOOK AT THE OTHER PERSON – their face, mouth, eyes, and hands will all help to communicate with you, and makes them feel you are listening.

LEAVE YOUR EMOTIONS BEHIND –They prevent you from listening well.

CONTROL YOUR ANGER – try not to get angry at what he/she is saying; your anger may prevent you from understanding what is said.

GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS – put down any papers, pens, etc. you have in your hands – they may distract you.

GET THE MAIN POINTS – concentrate on the main ideas and not just the illustrative material. Examples and statistics are important, but usually are not main points. Examine them only to see if they prove, support, define the main ideas.

SHARE RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMMUNICATION – only part of the responsibility rests with the speaker. You as the listener have an important part.

REACT TO IDEAS NOT TO PERSON – don’t allow your reactions to the person to influence your interpretation of what they say. Their ideas may be good even if you don’t like the person.

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