Introduction: The CLC Online Steward Handbook

October 7, 2015

Being a union steward is one of the most rewarding and meaningful ways you can bring more fairness and inclusion to the workplace.

If you are a new steward, or curious about what stewards do, this guide will help you understand a steward’s role, the knowledge required and the skills needed to be effective.

This revised and updated Steward Handbook contains all the essential information from the original CLC Steward Handbook, plus new material that helps stewards understand their role and what they need to know.

Table of Contents

Building community in the age of austerity and precariousness

The New Steward Handbook also features new material that will help stewards equip their members to face the challenges in the precarious economic environment today.

Precariousness refers to work or employment that is part-time, temporary, short-term or contract, and it’s on the rise. Today, in Toronto, 52 percent of workers are now in temporary, part-time or contract positions. Across Ontario, a full 63 percent of minimum wage workers work in similar circumstances. Youth unemployment across the country remains double the national average and the economy keeps shedding full-time jobs across economic sectors.

The situation is much the same across Canada. Decades of neoliberal “free trade” has ushered in slower growth, more corporate concentration and greater income inequality. Climate change is moving towards climate chaos, civil liberties are under threat and colonialism and racism continue to damage the lives of millions.
Workers face the full force of these broader problems every day. Globalization, deregulation, cutbacks and government austerity policies have created a climate of fear, insecurity and diminished expectations. Worse, these forces empower employers to demand more concessions, undermine collective bargaining and to keep putting profit ahead of people and the planet.

Union stewards make the difference

There is reason to be encouraged. Canadian unions have recognized that member engagement is a major way to build the resilience of the labour movement. Unions have beaten back legislative attacks and hostile governments at local, provincial and national levels. And unions continue to make concrete differences in people’s daily lives.
Unions are learning to change with the digital times, as well. They are learning to connect with members using new tools like online and digital content, social media, videos and ebooks like this one.

Lastly, we can all take courage in the fact that the labour movement continues to develop, grow and change in the face of changing times and circumstances. Unions are promoting solutions to workplace, social and economic problems that meet today’s complex and interrelated challenges, all while defending members’ day-to-day interests and improving working conditions.

Updated. Reimagined. New.

The New Steward Handbook ebook features both updated and new material, as well as new content. It includes new video interviews with a diverse range of union stewards who share their insight and experiences to help new stewards learn about their new role.

The updated material builds on the base of knowledge and experience from past generations and revises it for today’s audiences. The new material responds to new understandings of our world and the need for innovative approaches, like building more inclusive unions, connecting with members, and listening to younger workers who will carry labour’s torch.

How to use this resource

Scroll through the pages like you would for any kind of online resource. You can read through in order of the chapters, or jump around to the ones that interest you most. You can watch all the videos first, and then go back and read the text, or vice versa. However you engage with the content, it will be sure to help you understand the steward’s role and importance.