October, 2006

Mentoring New Stewards Stregthens Our Union

When you decided to become a steward, you took a big step. Clearly you had the
leadership skills and passion it takes to stand up for your fellow workers. Yet there are certain parts about being a steward that no one can learn until they become one. The best way to prepare a new steward is to serve as a mentor and provide the motivation and guidance so that all our coworkers have someone who they can count on.
Doug Payton of Local 1546 remembers how nervous he was when he first became a steward. A three-year steward at the Tyson plant in Josslyn, Ill., Payton knows firsthand how important it is to mentor new stewards. “I look at new stewards as an addition to the
family. We need to show them we are here to support one another.” If it weren’t for the older stewards who took him under their wings, Payton would have had a much more difficult time learning the ropes.
Becoming a steward means adding responsibility that presents a whole new set of challenges.
Even though new stewards are trained to face these new obstacles,nothing replaces the lessons learned from personal experience. “You learn as you go. When you start, there’s no way of knowing everything there is to know about being a good steward.” That’s why it’s important to reach out to new stewards and share the knowledge you have gained throughout the years.

Payton makes it a point to befriend new stewards. He’ll approach new stewards and let
them know they can come to him whenever they need help or advice, and makes it clear that asking a lot of questions aids the learning process. “A lot of times the solution to a problem isn’t spelled out in the contract. Not everything is black and white and new stewards can always count on us to help them deal with the different shades of gray.”

Payton knows how much of a steward’s effectiveness depends on how a particular situation is approached, so he offers advice based on the tactics which have worked for him under similar circumstances. This involves making sure new stewards know how to address management and deal with specific supervisors to better communicate the concerns of coworkers.

It’s also important to keep new stewards motivated. After years of being a steward, the hardest thing for Payton is still accepting that you can’t win every battle. When he sees new stewards getting frustrated or discouraged, he reminds them of their important role in the union. “When new stewards aren’t able to help a worker, I tell them it’s just one apple in the
whole tree. We hate that it fell off, but we have to fight for the other apples. We need to stay focused on the big picture.”
Payton still looks to his senior stewards for advice and inspiration. All stewards can learn from
one another because everyone has a different approach. Payton points out that sometimes the tactics of different stewards can be integrated—that’s how stronger and more effective stewards who are ready to deal with different kinds of situations are built. “We
are always learning from one another. Knowledge is power— that’s why we have to make sure
new stewards are prepared.”
In the end, by serving as a mentor, Payton not only helps to develop better stewards, he also contributes to building a more powerful union.

Food and Commercial Workers Stand for Safe Meat Industry Standards

FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS STAND FOR SAFE MEAT INDUSTRY STANDARDS

Federal Standards are Good for Consumers, Industry, and Meatpacking Workers

(Washington, DC) – Consumers deserve and expect the meat that they buy to be safe, sanitary, and produced and packaged under strict conditions. And that’s the exactly the kind of product that meatpacking workers want to deliver. Yet, a new USDA report shows that when inspection programs are left up to states, several states systematically fail to meet the most basic sanitation standards, and put the public at risk from food borne illness.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act allows states to inspect meat, but those plants are not allowed to ship product in interstate commerce. Although the state inspection programs are required to apply sanitation and health standards equal to those upheld at federally inspected plants, several state programs continually fail to meet federal USDA standards.

The USDA report details state-inspected meat plants that were allowed to continue operating despite instances of:

–unsanitary conditions, including cutting boards contaminated with residue from the previous days work;
–meat being cooked at temperatures incorrectly monitored-potentially exposing consumers to bacteria; and
–meat sold to unsuspecting customers after inspection programs were found to not meet legal standards for safety.

Despite several states failure to meet USDA standards, Congress is considering legislation that would allow meat from state-inspected plants to be sold anywhere in the country, said Michael J. Wilson, International Vice President and Director of UFCWs Legislative and Political Action Department. State inspection is not equivalent to federal inspection, and this report proves it, Wilson said.  “”In the light of the recent spinach outbreak, for Congress to move in this direction would be reprehensible.””

Relying on a series of uneven state standards is dangerous for consumers, workers, and the industry. If instances of food borne illness were to result from these poor state standards, consumers would get sick, workers would suffer from plant closures, and the whole meat industry would be impacted.

If producers want to expand beyond selling to consumers in their own state, they must be subject to federal standards. Federal USDA inspectors are sworn to uphold the public health.  Continuous inspections and high standards for sanitation mean that meat packing plants are cleaner and safer. Federal standards are good for consumers, for the meat industry, and for workers in the plants. Congress should not consider legislation which undermines the safety of our food system, Wilson said.

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For more information: Jill Cashen 202.728.4797 or email press@ufcw.org .