This International Women’s Day, we’d like to recognize the contributions women throughout the UFCW’s history have made to bettering their workplaces and strengthening our union family. One of the many ways women of the UFCW have found a voice and an opportunity to lead is through becoming a steward.
Union stewards are members who make the choice to step up, either by election or appointment, to make sure the contract between the union and the company is followed and that their coworkers are being treated fairly and know their rights. Stewards accompany coworkers at disciplinary meetings and represent their coworkers’ issues as equals with management.
Taralyn Pike, a UFCW Local 400 member who works at Giant, made the decision to become a steward approximately five months ago. After five years at Giant, she’d started to notice “a great deal of unhappiness” at her store. Rather than shrug it off, Taralyn decided she would do something about it.
“I wanted to put myself in a position to bring some happiness into the workplace,” Taralyn said. “Who wants to work in a place where it seems everyone’s out to get you and you don’t feel secure? But now, I feel like my store is a place where we can be happy. The manager and I work together to make sure everyone is on the same page. My team members know they have a shoulder to lean on as well as to cry on.
“As a steward,” she added, “I now have a better understanding about employee rights and how things work. And I’m a better listener than I was before.”
She didn’t stop there. When negotiations over their contract heated up with her employer, she got to work mobilizing other Giant workers in the area and letting them know what was at stake. Now she is busy speaking out in favor of raising the minimum wage in Virginia.
A resident of Arlington and the mother of nine- and 12-year old boys, Taralyn said, “Being a union member means so much. It means we are not alone. There are always people to help you; always someone you can call. And there are ways to get involved outside the store. I can testify that stepping up is always worth it.”
Thank you to all our hardworking women who are out there moving and shaking and making life better for everyone. We hope more working men and women are inspired by your example to step up and make a difference.