Shop Steward Handbook Introduction 

Shop Stewards are members appointed or elected by fellow employees in each work area and shift. A Shop Steward’s main function is to monitor the administration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They explain Agreement provisions to their fellow employees and assist in bringing First Step Complaints to the attention of the Supervisors or Team Leaders. The Steward also assists fellow members during the course of a company investigation into alleged misconduct. 


This handbook will help the most experienced as well as the newest Shop Stewards to understand the importance of their role within the structure of the IAM.  



A Stewards "Tool-Kit" 


The Stewards "tool kit" is neither a bag of hardware nor a bag of tricks. It is a combination of knowledge and skill plus some papers, documents, and notes for quick reference. The following is just a small sample of what a successful Steward should have knowledge of. A Shop Steward should… 


Know the Collective Bargaining Agreement. 


It is not necessary to know the exact contract language, but a Steward should be familiar with each Article of the Agreement and have it available at all times. 


Know the personalities that will be dealt with. 


Everyone is different and different approaches are needed for all types, whether they be co-worker or management. The Steward must act on the basis of sound judgment, uncluttered by bias or emotionalism. 


Know the different jobs and the seniority of the membership. 


A Steward does not have to be a "Super Employee" who must do more than anyone else, but he or she should have a grasp of what each job entails. An up to date seniority roster can resolve many problems quickly and efficiently.   

Know company rules and practices. 


A Steward should know the company rules; not just the written and posted rules, but the company practices. The rules consist of what the company does, as well as what it says. 


Know the basic rights of Workmen's Compensation in your state as well as other laws that protect the workers. 


Certain laws provide that employees must be compensated in case of injury or illness arising from the job. Two federal laws that a Steward should be familiar with are; the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Know relevant safety laws and rules. 


The Steward should call safety hazards to the attention of representatives of the Union/Management Safety Committee. The Union is the best protection of the worker's safety and the most active body for the enforcement of safety laws. 


Always keep in mind that a Steward isn't expected to know all the answers, but must be the type of person who enjoys finding them. Don't be afraid to ask questions and keep asking them. If you have questions or problems, don't be afraid to use the phone or visit an experienced Steward or Officer. Become known as someone who asks when you don't know, rather than someone who tries to bluff or hide 



 Stewards Role In a Discipline Hearing 


You must handle all discipline as if the case will go to arbitration. Remember, even if the investigation does not go the way you had hoped, you can challenge the discipline through the grievance procedure. 

Your main role in a Discipline Hearing is to make sure that the member is treated as fairly as possible under circumstances that are heavily weighted against them. In general, the steward should follow these guidelines at a hearing: 


1. Speak to the member prior to the hearing. It doesn't matter if the hearing is formal or informal, make sure you and the member have talked ahead of time. In the event that questioning has started prior to your arrival, ask for a recess to get some understanding as to what happened.


2. Get as much information as you can beforehand. Do not let the employer withhold information. Document any denials of information in writing.


3. If there are any witnesses at the meeting or hearing, you should question them as you see fit. You have a right to ask these witnesses questions to determine the accuracy of their testimony and their biases. Your rights regarding clarifying information should not be restricted by management. If you are denied that right, make sure that such denial is entered on the record.

 4. It is perfectly proper for members to answer questions with, "Yes," "No," "I don't recall" or "I don't know." Once the member has answered a question, they are under no obligation to elaborate.

 5. At most hearings the steward can stop the meeting at any time to speak privately with the member.


6. Take notes during the meeting. The written record is important. It documents what was said, not what was allegedly said. Cases have been won on the basis of good notes.



A Shop Stewards Bill of Rights

Shop Stewards are sometimes so busy working to protect a co-worker’s rights that they forget they have rights themselves.

Introduce yourself as the Steward and people will have all kinds of contradictory expectations about what you are and what you should do.

Some co-workers will expect you to save them in all situations. Management will expect you to be a thorn in their side at the very least. Your union reps will expect you to be the first line of defense for your co-workers.

With all these expectations whirling about, just what are your rights?

Sure you have legal rights that are important to know, but more important are your basic rights as a human being who was elected, chosen, or drafted, to take on an incredibly challenging role.

Here’s a “Bill of Rights” for Shop Stewards. Its neither a final authority on the subject nor is it a legal document.


 1 Stewards have the right to be treated as an equal by management when doing union work.

2 Stewards have the right to exercise their best judgment in a situation.

3 Stewards have the right to make a mistake or not have an immediate solution to a problem.

4 Stewards have the right to an abuse-free environment.

5 Stewards have the right to ask others to help with union business.

6 Stewards have the right to give and receive constructive criticism.

7 Stewards have the right to training about their roles and responsibilities.

8 Stewards have the right to thanks for a job well done.

9 Stewards have the right to fight for these rights!




The System Board of Adjustment

As you know by now, every effort should be made to settle a grievance at the lowest level as possible. In a sense, the submission of a grievance to a costly System Board of Adjustment hearing, indicates the failure of the grievance procedure to fulfill its intended purpose, the prompt resolution of disputes within the confines of the contract. The Fourth Step of our grievance procedure, the System Board of Adjustment, is where the grievance that you are processing today might eventually end up in the future. This Shop Steward Report will explain the System Board and how it relates to our contract.

 Deciding to submit a grievance to the System Board is often a difficult question for both union representatives and company officials. Both parties must cautiously judge the worth of the:

 Risks of allowing an individual outside of the bargaining relationship to render a final and binding decision.

Applicable provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Nature of the dispute and the “facts” as each side sees them.

Potential impact of an arbitrator’s award.

Feasibility of the settlement.

The System Board of Adjustment consists of three members, the Chairman, who is a neutral party to the proceedings, the Company Member, who is appointed by UAL, and the Union Member, who is appointed by the IAM. In matters relating to contract interpretation, all members of the Board will hear and decide the case by a majority vote. In disciplinary cases, only the Chairman will sit on the Board and will decide the case solely.


The Board has the power to make sole, final and binding decisions on the company, the union, and the employees) insofar as a grievance relates to the meaning and application of our contract. The Board cannot modify, add to, or change the terms of the Agreement, nor can it establish or change wages, rules, or working conditions as covered by the Agreement.


All appeals that are properly referred to the Board shall include, 1) the question or questions at issue, 2) a statement of the specific Agreement provisions which are claimed to be violated, 3) all facts relating to the dispute which it intends to cite in support of its position, and 4) the full position of the appealing party.


Except in cases involving appeals of discipline action, letters in the file, suspension, or discharge, the only written procedural step will be the Union’s Submission to the Board, the other party to the dispute shall, within forty (40) days after receipt of the appealing parties Submission, must file a Statement of Position with the other party. This Statement of Position includes, 1) the question or questions at issue, 2) all facts relating to the dispute that it wishes to cite in support of its position, and 3), the full position on which it will rely.


Within fifteen days of this filing, both the union and the company advise the Board of the facts on which they desire to present evidence at the hearing. Each party has the opportunity at the hearing to present facts on which the other party presents evidence. The Chairman may also ask both the union and company about facts that he or she would like to have evidence for.


After the hearing is closed, the Chairman shall give his written decision within thirty (30) days unless it is extended by mutual agreement of the union and the company. As you can see, the Fourth Step is a very lengthy process. It all can start once you, the Shop Steward, take up a First Step Complaint with management. The Fourth Step echoes all the other previous steps of the Grievance Procedure in the fact that allot of homework is done with one exception. Once a grievance gets to this point, the decision is final and binding with no more appeals or discussions.


Please read Article XVIII of our contracts to get a complete understanding of the importance and cost of taking a grievance to the System Board of Adjustment.


This is going to be our final installment to the Grievance Procedure. We hope that we clarified the Grievance Procedure somewhat and maybe even taught you something about it. Please keep in mind that volumes and volumes of material have been written on this subject and that we were not trying to make anyone an expert on this subject. What we wanted to give you, as the first line of defense for the membership, was a basic understanding of how the Grievance Procedure works. We hope that the membership will benefit from your knowledge of this very valuable tool.


The Third Step of the Grievance Procedure

The Third Step of the Grievance Procedure can be a continuation of an unresolved first or second step dispute, or it may involve a more serious issue that will bypass both the first and second steps, and be heard directly at the third step.


The Union and the Company have agreed that certain disputes are of such importance that they deserve the immediate attention of everyone involved. Four such situations have been identified as warranting Third Step attention without waiting for decisions from the first two steps. They are: Appeals of Investigative Review (IR) Decisions, Termination from Extended Illness Status, Seniority Protests and Protests of Layoff Due to Lack of Qualification.

* * *

This Shop Steward Report will deal with Third Step appeals of Investigative Review Hearing (IRH) decisions. An IRH is held whenever the company proposes discipline at Level 4 or Level 5 (discharge). It is important to remember that a Level 4 or 5 cannot be issued without first being considered at an IRH. The supervisor and the Local Grievance Committee will make their case for and against the proposed Level, after which the Hearing Officer (usually the department manager) will render a decision to carry out the proposed discipline, reduce it, or exonerate the charged employees).


If the Hearing Officer decides to uphold the proposed Level 4 or 5, the Union may appeal that decision directly to the Third Step of the grievance procedure. The IAM District files Third Step appeals directly with the Industrial Relations Department of the company. This written appeal must be submitted within 15 days of the IRH decision. A Third Step Hearing will be scheduled, at which the Assistant General Chairman (AGC) will present the unions case for the employee, and a manager will present the case for the company. A representative of the company’s Industrial Relations Department will hear the case and render a decision within 15 days of the close of the hearing.


The preparation for the Third Step Hearing is a collaborative effort between the District (AGC), the Local Grievance Committee, the Shop Stewards, and the charged employees). The incident giving rise to the Level will be examined and re-examined for strengths and weakness. Precedent setting decisions from earlier cases will be researched through the Grievance Tracking System, which is a data bank maintained by the union. Evidence will be prepared, and testimony will be rehearsed. The importance of this hearing should never be underestimated or taken lightly as a joke, as the next step in the grievance procedure is the costly and never certain System Board of Adjustment, or Arbitration.


Article XVII—Disciplinary Action

Article 17 of our contract contains important language for both Members and Stewards;



An employee who is to be questioned by company representatives in the investigation of an incident which may result in disciplinary action being taken against him, will be informed of his rights to have a union representative present before such questioning begins.



The above contract language gives employees the clear right to Union Representation during investigations. The Steward, in the same sentence, gains the right to be present during such investigations. It is important to note that it is the Company’s duty to inform the Member of his right to have a Union Representative present before questioning starts.


Even though some supervisors will involve the Steward as required, some will not. Failure by the Company to do so can be an important factor in the reversal and/or reduction of any eventual discipline. It is important to remind both Members and management of their rights and obligations in this area. Contract language, such as contained in Article 17, represents a very significant improvement over previous agreements where Member rights to representation were less clearly defined.


During an investigation, the Steward should make certain that a Member’s right to a fair and impartial hearing is fully protected. This includes the right to copies of any documentation used by the Company that are relevant to the investigation.


No Member should ever be denied the important protection that is guaranteed under the language of Article 17.

Some common questions that seem to come up in the course of a Disciplinary action or a company investigation are:


Can a member request a Shop Steward other than the one who is present in his/her work area?


Nothing shall prevent a member from requesting a Shop Steward from another department to be their representative in the course of an official company investigation.

Company officials should accommodate such a request, and likely will, unless an investigation would be unreasonably delayed. A delay of more than several hours will potentially be considered unreasonable, if evidence or witnesses might become unavailable during that time.


Can the Company deny a members request for a particular Shop Steward?


Yes, in the event such a request would unreasonably delay an investigation, or if the requested Shop Steward is a subject of the same investigation for which the member is to be questioned.

To deny a members request for any other reason would be a violation of the Disciplinary Action Article of our Agreements.


Can the company tell a member who their Steward will be?


The company may say that so-and-so will be the Shop Steward during a disciplinary investigation, but the member may request that someone else be the Steward instead. If the requested Steward is available, the company should grant the request.


I'm a Steward who is being disciplined. Can I have another Steward represent me?


Yes you absolutely can and you should insist on it. No one should ever go to a discipline hearing without representation. When a Steward is being questioned for possible discipline, they are entitled to be granted the exact rights as anyone else would in the same situation.


  Filing The First Step Complaint Form

This Report will examine the First Step Complaint Form, and the information that needs to be presented within. The First Step Complaint you write up today may be resolved at the Second and Third Steps of the Grievance Procedure, or the final step, Binding Arbitration. The success of any grievance often depends on how well this important piece of paperwork is completed.

 An Over View:

Making and keeping a record of differences with the Company serves many purposes. By detailing the specifics of an unresolved contract dispute, or to protest a disciplinary action, the First Step Complaint, when collected with others, becomes a sort of record of life on the job. This record serves to highlight contract language that may need strengthening or Company practices that may need to be addressed. The written grievance and its settlement also provides the Union a guide for similar grievances in the future.


Part 1:

The first section of the Complaint Form appears to be so straight forward, but surprisingly, key lines are often left blank. The EMPLOYEE’S Name, Home Address, File Number, as well as the EMPLOYEE’S Department, Seniority Date, Classification, Days Off, and the Shift Starting Time, ALL need to be included. Most importantly, please include the EMPLOYEE’S HOME & WORK PHONE NUMBERS. 


It is often assumed that everyone involved knows the grievant or the issue at hand, but this may not always be the case. Once a First Step Complaint leaves the immediate area from which it began, it’s possible that the people handling it will not be as familiar with the circumstances involved. For this reason, it’s important to include ALL the information requested in Part 1 of the Complaint Form.


Complaint Nature:

An otherwise legitimate grievance may be lost by virtue of how this section is or is not filled out. Obviously, the 


Date of Claimed Violation needs to be included and accurate. Some grievances can take many months before they are ultimately resolved, and an incorrect date can call into question all other information on the form. The 


Applicable Contract Provisions) line should include the SPECIFIC Contract Article violated, as well as the words, “...and all other applicable articles.” This inclusion protects the grievance from being rejected on the basis of an incorrect or incomplete citing of Contract chapter and verse.


Complaint Nature: continued...

The Remedy Sought line is perhaps the most important part of any grievance. To use an example, a Contract complaint of bypass for RDO overtime that does not include a Remedy Sought of, “8 hours pay at applicable rate," might be awarded as written, without the appropriate remedy of back pay. A grievance for unjust discipline that does not include as a remedy sought, that an employee be “made whole," might be resolved without key restorations of seniority and bidding rights. Any doubt about how this section might be filled out should occasion a call to the Local Committee before turning in the First Step Complaint Form.


The Name, Date, and Oral Answer of the Supervisor first contacted should be included, as time limits apply when processed to the Second Step.


Case Facts:

Although the Form instructs that complete details, records, forms and letters are to be included in the Case Facts section, it is appropriate at this point to be brief and concise. It is not necessary to repeat all of the information that is hopefully included in the previous sections. It is not necessary to fully substantiate the claim being made. It is enough to state that the grievance is a protest regarding rates of pay, bidding rights, etc., or that the grievant is appealing a disciplinary action that is considered unfair. Obviously, some detail and documentation are appropriate at this point, but chances are that you are processing a written grievance in part, because of an unsatisfactory oral answer from a supervisor. Unless you have uncovered additional information and presented it to the company, you can expect the supervisor’s oral answer to be repeated in writing.


Article XVIII Section D of our contract states that “The Local Committee shall determine if a grievance exists”. At that point, all of your collected information will be examined in detail.



Lest we forget, no grievance should be submitted without the Steward Signature and Date and the Employee Signature and Date. The signature of the employee is particularly important. It is the authorization for the Union to activate the Grievance Procedure on his or her behalf.  

* * *


Small details overlooked can be the turning point on which a grievance may pivot. Time limits, accurate information, and a desired remedy sought, are just some of the important items that need to be considered when processing a First Step Complaint.

 Just as the Shop Steward is the Heart of the Union, the Grievance Procedure is the Heart of the Contract. No collective bargaining agreement would be complete without some form of mandated dispute resolution. In this Report, we will review our Agreement’s Grievance procedure, and examine in particular some important First Step skills that a Steward needs to develop and practice.


In The Beginning

Article XVIII of both of our Agreements, fully describes the Four Step Grievance Procedure that calls for both the Company and the Union to seek fair and equitable settlements to disputes. It is important to note that the Agreement does not require that they agree on what is fair and equitable, only that they participate in the process to seek a settlement. A dispute may be settled by mutual agreement between the Company and the Union during any of the first Three Steps. The Fourth Step, Binding Arbitration, is available to resolve a deadlock in the Grievance Procedure.


If the First Step grievance is denied, the Union has 15 days in which to appeal at the Second and Third Steps, and 40 days in which to appeal to arbitration. The Company has 3 days in which to provide a written response at the First Step, 5 days at the Second Step, and 14 days at the Third Step. Keep in mind that the time limits for appeals and responses do not include Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. Untimely responses are subject to automatic appeal to the next step of the procedure unless there is an extension arranged by mutual agreement of the parties.


Disciplinary Action

There is another Article in the Agreement that is of particular significance to the Shop Steward. In Article XVII, it states that no employee will be questioned by a representative of the Company, in the investigation of an incident that may result in discipline, without being informed of his right to have a Union Representative present before such questioning begins. In practice, this is how a Steward comes to be involved in the day to day resolution of problems between our Members and the Company. It also sets the stage for unresolved disputes to become First Step Grievances. 

 The Grievance Procedure

 Bring a Pencil

Nothing is more important in the early stages of investigating a potential discipline grievance than to have kept a detailed written record of the initial Investigative Interview. An Investigative Interview has the potential to result in serious discipline for a Union Member. For this reason, notes should be taken during the meeting or immediately afterward, with particular attention to WHO was involved, WHAT really happened, WHEN did it happen, WHERE did it take place, and WHY the meeting was called. This will include details of the alleged violation, names of all witnesses from both the Company and the Union, and acquiring relevant documents such as any prior disciplinary records and statements. “I would like a copy of that” should be the refrain of a Shop Steward throughout any such meeting.


A Short Word about Long Statements

As part of an Incident Investigation, the Company will often request Statements from the worker or workers involved. As a general rule, Statements should be short. They are not the place for a lengthy rebuttal to charges that have not yet been made. 


 To Grieve or Not To Grieve

Often a Member will approach a Steward with a complaint that is not a grievance. After investigation, this situation should be clearly explained to the Member, with references to what the Contract does and does not provide.

 When a grievance does exist, the Steward should promptly file a First Step Grievance Form with the employee’s supervisor. The Form should include the specific Article violated as well as an equally specific request as to how the grievance can be satisfied, i.e. Removal of level, specific amount of back pay, cessation of practice, etc. However, it is important to remember that the First Step Form is NOT the place for a full defense of the workers position. Again, the shorter, the better. All of the information that the Steward has gathered should remain in his or her notes for future use if the grievance is denied. The Steward should always be careful not to be the source of too much information for the Company.


As we stated in the last Report, the difference between a successful grievance that sets matters straight, and the continued violation of a Member’s rights is usually an informed and effective Shop Steward. The Grievance Procedure is one means within the Agreement to enforce important rights and provisions. In future issues, we will examine some protections that exist outside of the collective bargaining agreement. 


The Heart of the Union


It has been written many times that the Shop Steward is the Heart of the Union. The skills of Stewards can greatly strengthen the Union itself as well as the general tone of labor relations with management. The Steward is the central component of the Union-Company–Member relationship as illustrated in the following example;



Union Members







Shop Steward 


Union Officials 


Points to Remember


Enforcement of the contract depends on the Steward;


Members often judge the Union by their Steward. If the Steward is fair, and looks out for their interests, they will respect and support the Union;


The Steward is the link between members, Union, and management;


The Steward keeps members informed about the Union, and keeps the Union leadership informed about the workplace


 Goals Of An Effective Shop Steward


The following items can serve as a helpful checklist for Shop Stewards new and old; consider it a partial job description.

·         Keep yourself informed about Union affairs.

·         Serve as an example to your members.

·         Keep the members informed on Union policies and activities.

·         Attend Union meetings and Union affairs.

·         Meet any new members early, inform them, educate them, help them become members; make them more than dues payers.

·         Get your area to act as a Union– have them stick together.

·         Act as a leader; do not let personal likes or dislikes prejudice your actions as a grievance representative.

·         Fight discrimination, whether it be overt or very discreet. Discourage prejudice of any kind.

·         Keep accurate and up-to-date records. Write it down.

·         Do not promise if you cannot deliver.

·         Encourage political action on the part of members. See to it they are registered and vote.

·         Become active politically. Encourage members to exercise their right to vote, and to vote for labor friendly candidates.

·         Know how to refer to the Union contract, by-laws and Constitution.

Encourage and support the Union's activities on behalf of organizing the unorganized.

·         Inform the membership of Union services. Encourage them to take advantage of the services the Union provides.

·         Fight, whenever you meet it, the anti-Union element. You can do this by being informed and being dedicated to the union movement.

·         Do not hesitate or stall. If you do not know, admit that you do not know, than try and get the answers.

·         Keep your fellow employees informed regarding the sources of your information. Give pertinent information when a member asks for it.

·         When dealing with management, remember that you are the elected or appointed representative of your fellow members. Never consider yourself to be other than equal to management representatives.

·         Be proud of your position. Remember you are a Union representative with the support of tens of thousands of Union members.

·         Investigate every grievance as if it were your own. Keep the member informed. Make sure you keep your deadlines. There is no excuse for missing a time limit. Research every grievance as if it were going to arbitration but try to resolve it at the lowest possible level.

·         Attend and encourage attendance at any labor education programs that might be available to you and the members.

·         Know your contract.

 Remember your goal is to be the best Shop Steward you can be. Always strive for this goal. Excellence has no substitute