Represent The Workers!

Fraud News
24 November 1999

Due to the conversion of some shop stewards into a near-managment role, we are reprinting here this article which appeared in Ford Worker, official organ of the Ford Shop Stewards, Vol II No 2, October 1953. The author was JAMES LAURIE, C5 Department and his title was: “Functions of Shop Stewards”.

The duties of shop stewards are many and varied. A glance at the “Ford Procedure Agreement” or “Duties of a Shop Steward” in your own union rule book will let you see just how varied his/her duties are.

But let us get down to the fundamental job: the shop steward is primarily the representative, or in other words the spokesperson, for the workers in his/her shop.

The shop steward is an active trade unionist of high moral courage and integrity, a person who is capable of taking on the responsibility of leadership, looking after the interests and welfare of his brothers and sisters at shop level, and putting forward the views and aspirations of these workers in his/her department at shop stewards’ meetings.

Now let us see just some of the duties the shop steward should carry out.

  • At shop level he/she should pursue any complaint or grievance until it is satisfactorily cleared up; he/she should never leave a worker with the impression that a complaint is either “too trivial or too awkward”!
  • Shop stewards’ meetings. He/she should attempt to be at every meeting, and there he/she should put forward the views of the workers in his/her department on any given policy (that can always be ascertained by holding shop or shop committee meetings at regular intervals, giving the workers a lead on a particular policy, but above all abiding by the decision of the majority). The same rule must apply at the meeting of the “95” shop stewards – he/she should agree to abide by the majority decision.
  • Hold regular meetings. After each meeting of the “95” he/she should bring his department “into the picture”. Let the workers know what happened; don’t be secretive. It’s the right of all trade unionists to know what policy is being pursued in their name. It is also necessary to consult the workers and seek their opinion about what should be done and get their agreement. Developments should be endorsed by the people. The members must be fully informed.
  • Branch life. I consider it the duty of all shop stewards to take an active interest in their trade union branch, attend branch meetings regularly, and bring along some of the members of their own department.

Now let’s have a few “Don’ts” in the function of a shop steward. He/she should not belong to any employers’ organisations. Yes, unfortunately we have some shop stewards who do! I know it looks quite attractive to be able to go abroad every year at no expense to yourself, and maybe it’s OK to “love your boss” now and again, but that is incompatible with your duty as a shop steward. There is a price to be paid for these jaunts abroad, and that is the weakening of the trade union organisation to the benefit of the employers, otherwise why do the employers sponsor shop stewards and very rarely ordinary rank-and-file members?

Of course it must always be remembered that the men have a lot to do to ensure that the shop steward functions correctly. Confide in your shop steward; don’t hesitate when in trouble, approach him for advice, put your confidence in him, and let him see that he has good support. By doing so you not only help yourself, but the shop steward and the whole trade union organisation.

Finally, I would like to state simply that the function of a shop steward, first, last, and all the time, is that they: REPRESENT THE WORKERS!