The People Who Represent You On The Job
Most any complaint or grievance you might have with your employer will be handled by one of two people: your shop steward or your business agent. Knowing which one to ask for assistance is important, and here's how to tell them apart.
The shop steward is your first line of defense when you have a problem on the job. Your shop steward is your union representative and can be located at or close to your work site. Get to know your shop steward as soon as possible. Your shop steward is a local problem-solver, communicator, educator, and your link to union officials. A good shop steward works to promote union principles and ensure fairness and respect on the job.
Business Agents (BA's)
Business agents provide backup support to a cluster of shop stewards, keeping members up to date on union matters and working with them to ensure that union contracts are enforced and member rights are protected. BA's act as resources for questions regarding work-related issues and grievances. They are required to make regular visits to job sites within their jurisdictions and review activities and conditions there.
Not every problem is a grievance issue, but when a situation comes up in the workplace that you believe contradicts your contractual obligation, you should immediately notify your shop steward. Your shop steward will determine whether the issue is one that should be grieved and how to proceed.
A grievance is the union's formal legal process for filing a complaint against management for an illegal action. As a member you are entitled to representation for grievance on the job.
Hercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.
Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.