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Making a Difference

Hello brothers and sisters! When I first started as a steward about 4 years ago, I knew nothing about the contract or what a Steward did. I only wanted to straighten out the management that had run amok in my station. They took advantage of a carrier who is a great worker but who is not, let’s say, the most intelligent individual, a little slow. He loves to work and brags how as a TE he worked 90 hours in one week at the plant. He LOVES to work! A management dream and they took advantage of him and it pissed me off!

I became a steward because of him and started my adventure on knowing nothing and being intimidated at the meetings when all the stewards were throwing around Art. 8’s and defending Art. 16’s, and what about the unilateral action and Art. 5, eh?!! I sat back and was thinking, “ What the hell are they talking about?”

We had no new steward training, so at the steward training sessions I was even more lost. I thought, “How the hell does one learn all this stuff?” Well, I began to read and haven’t stopped yet. Management knew I was new and took advantage of me, by challenging me at every turn. I would tell them they couldn’t do that, and they would say show me where it says that. And I always said I had to get back to them on that and call the branch to find out where I could find the answer.

I’m not one to have to rely on everyone to get answers for me, I want to know what I need to know. So back to reading I went. I read the Nat. Agreement, JCAM, POM, ASM, ELM, the MRS, and our LMOU for starters. Then I read all the peripheral documents and handbooks. I started reading ALL the Step 4 decisions and many, many arbitrations. I sat down one weekend and read 224 of them and on one weekend recently read 146 arbitrations. Now I know you say that is extreme, and it is, however, I try to find ways to convey what I have read to the carriers or stewards I represent and to all the readers of my articles. What may be my obsession turns into a benefit for you and them.

I have always tried to find ways to transfer information to others so that we can learn collectively without ALL of us reading hundreds of arbitrations on the weekend. I created my STUIRD CD just for this purpose, first for my branch, then for the Internet. It’s collection of information that every Steward would love to have at his fingertips. I’ve read everything on it and now am developing another with much more info on it for 2005. I believe with as much knowledge as you can find at your fingertips, a good steward can defend you with the best way possible. Nothing pleases me more than to beat management at their own game! Right now I have 18 OT grievances in process that will get my carriers about $6000 in OT violations, in lump sums, if managements agrees to the reduced rate at which I would settle. If they don’t, they pay at the maximum OT rate and the payout will be much higher! I love watching smoke come out of their ears when you have them over a barrel, because they have to smile, while they are burning up inside! That’s what Stewarding is all about! Defending your carriers and seeing the contract work!

I once thought as many of you do, “What difference can I make? I am just one individual.” Well, the few years as a Steward has made an impression on some of my fellow stewards and they have recently nominated me for President of my Branch. I am truly honored by the nomination. If I am elected to office, within 5 yrs., I went from just a normal carrier to the President of a 1700 member branch. If I lose, I will still have the respect of the stewards and possibly a bigger “voice” during the meetings.

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No matter what happens, I am living proof that ONE individual CAN make a difference. If you put forth the effort and time, you will make a difference in your branch. I have no patience with carriers who say, “Well, I’m just one person, I’m not going to make a difference.” These are carriers who want to complain, yet do nothing, and want to be heard, but say nothing. They want SOMEONE ELSE to do the work! All of you know this type of carrier. They want the Union to come to their rescue…they want the Union to grieve anything they feel is wrong…they yell at their Steward if they lose their grievance, but have never been to a Union meeting or couldn’t tell you where the Union hall is located. We all know this guy. He is the bad apple at the bottom of the barrel as far as Union activists and supporters go, but feel they are owed something but will do nothing for it.

You can make a difference! You just have to get up and do it. If you sit and analyze everything, you will never do anything. Do I have the time? Do I have the knowledge? Do I know what I’m doing? I didn’t. I just did it, and dealt with it. It’s the best decision I ever made and the most rewarding. Something I didn’t want to do has now become something I think I was destined to do. But I never would have known it, if I didn’t get off my ass and become involved!

Make the choice, never give up, and I, and many carriers on this website on the city carrier discussion page are there to help you along. I didn’t have this when I started, I wish I had, it would have helped me immensely. Rick Owens is to be commended on his choice to make a difference. He created a site that informs thousands of carriers across the country in an instant. He made a difference and assisted me in making a difference by providing me a site to expand my voice across the country.

Now, I ask you…what are YOU going to do to make a difference?

Good Luck! I know I speak for Rick and myself in that this site is here to help you in your quest. Ask questions, get answers, and never, never, never, let management get the upper hand. You can control what they get away with.

In solidarity…

Denny Belden
Aka: VetCarrier

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