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February 1999


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esides attending lots of excit- ing meetings, what do shop

stewards do, anyway?





Organizing Director says “this is not a glamour job. For the most part, you learn it OJT — on the job train- ing — and you make it up as you go along. While most employers will give you the time you need to bring the members up to date about union issues, even that’s not guaranteed. So you do it on your own time.”

Being a steward is more than just a headache. It’s a source of respect, comaraderie, and information. Most stewards will agree that it always feels great to help their fellow employees.

“An important goal for stewards is to settle problems quickly and quietly before they become crises” Crosatto said.

District Lodge 190 has about 400 stewards who take responsibility for trying to solve problems that arise between employees and employers, filing grievances when necessary, disseminating information from the union about benefits and other opportunities. And stewards are always involved in negotiations when the contracts are up.

MGM Brake members well-served

Ted Emell is a Local 1596 mem- ber in Cloverdale, who’s worked at MGM Brake for 32 years and has been shop steward for the last eight. Ted makes sure that the company is going by the contract.

“If there’s a dispute, I first try to work it out with Human Resources. If I can’t resolve it there, I’ll bring it to our Business Agent.

“So far we’ve only had to take two or three cases to arbitration. But we’re fortunate to be able to work things out.”

Ted has helped negotiate five

contracts, and the next one expires on March 1. “The biggest issues are wages, hospitalization and pension, but we always have a few small pro- posals to push for.”

“T he real stars tonight are the shop stewards from our 300 shops,” pro- claimed Organizing Director Don Crosatto as he opened the December 15 Local 1546 Shop Steward Recognition Dinner. More than 200 people attended the annu- al event at the Willow Park Country Club in Castro Valley and were treated to dinner, danc- ing, and raffle of tickets to sporting events, the Guide Dogs

bargaining table, strived to regain the pension and benefits package and always encouraged new mem- bers.”

Davison’s advice: “you must keep fighting for what you know is right and never stop.” Although Ken has not yet been successful at reinstituting the union at Signer, he





and more.

The winner of this year’s Al James

Ken Davison receives Al James Memorial Shop Steward Plaque from District 190 Organizing Director Don Crosatto





has vowed to keep trying.

was Ken Davison of Signer Buick Cadillac. Crosatto explained that the choice of Davison was both easy and difficult, as Davison doesn’t currently work at a union shop. “But,” according to Crosatto, “the only reason his shop was union for as long as it was— and it will be union again — is due to the hard work of Davison. He walked the picket lines, sat at the

The plaque was named for Al James, a long-time activist and member of Local 1546 who died in 1989.

“I’m so proud of this award named in my husband’s honor, said his widow Iola James. “Al was a dedicated member of this union, and I’ll try to be here every year to help pass the torch to others who share that commitment.”

According to Emell, “the best thing about being a steward is trying to make it a better workplace for my fellow workers.”

The worst thing, he sighed, is that “you can’t always give the members the news they want to hear, so some- times you have to be the bad guy.”

Involvement is key

For Local 1101’s Mark Reville, involvement is what’s important. The union has a good relationship with MicroMet, his employer, and so “they give me the time I need to talk with the members. I just make sure not to abuse it.”

Mark was successful in getting a couple of guys reinstated, “which felt really good.”

Kevin Ferguson, from Stevens Creek BMW, isn’t officially the steward, but because he sits on the Local 1101 Executive Board, he shares many of the duties. “I defi- nitely hear about it the loudest if the members aren’t happy.”

Kevin says “it’s important to keep the members up to date and share information. But even more than that, it’s rewarding to have input into something. If you’re not willing to fight for the union today, what will be there tomorrow?”

Watch the union

Ruben Jaramillo works at Piercey Toyota. He became a steward in 1969, not long after he joined Local 1101. “I wanted to keep an eye on the union and make sure it was doing the right thing.” Now, he believes being a steward is an important way to be involved. And, 30 years later, he can still keep an eye on the union.


Tale of persistence: Firestone settles

Local 1546 hasn’t been able to get a contract with the East Bay’s four Firestone stores since 1994.

The company tried every trick in the book to dump the union including a de-cert election, withdrawing recog- nition, and refusing to nego- tiate in good faith. Consistently slapped by the NLRB, they still sought to take away the pension plan and institute a large co-pay on the health insurance.

Although the employees are all new since this latest round of contract talks began, if nothing else, they’ll enjoy an excellent

benefit package.

Congratulations to all who participated in this pro- tracted effort.

Big contracts up for Local 1596

Two big contracts for Local 1596 are due to expire soon. At Cloverdale’s MGM Brakes, the contract expires on March 1. On April 30 the contract is up at Hosokawa Manufacturing in Santa Rosa.

According to Business Agent Tom Brandon, “of course, wages and benefits are the biggest issue. Health insurance, in particular is a big concern for both sides, especially as the media reports 10-20% rate hikes.”

In addition, all of the

local’s independent garages in Santa Rosa and Eureka are up for contract renewal in June.

“It pays to be union”

Hansel Ford and Goodyear both had to pony up back pay for Local 1596 members after their cases were taken to boards of review.




was pay.

awarded 21 days back The Goodyear employ-






check because the dragged out the

company case for

months. Goodyear

The lesson for is that they can’t










And for employees, it pays to be union.


1596 welcomes new Financial Secretary


and wel-

come to Joyce


from Amac Plastics, who has just taken over the financial reins at Local 1596. For over twenty years, this posi- tion was held by Jerry Firontino, a 40-year mem- ber. “Jerry did a great job for





Agent Tom Brandon. kept us on the straight narrow, and he will missed.”

“He and be

And the winner is. . .

Gary Tucker, a member of Local 1101, just won a trip to England for being the best

Jaguar tech on the west coast. Tucker has worked at San Jose British Motors for more than 10 years and been in the union for 20-plus years. Congratulations for a well-earned award.

Hard work deserves credit

Mark Reville, a MicroMet employee in the San Jose facility and member of Local 1101, was very involved in organizing the Roseville plant, described in the last issue of The Sparkplug. He went to Roseville several times and talked with employees there about the benefits of being union. Many thanks to Mark for sharing his experience and helping ensure a union victory.

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