Envoy Agents Update: More Stewards Trained and Bargaining Progresses

Over the past few months the Envoy bargaining team has seen some steady progress in working toward a first contract for agents. At the most recent meeting, September 14-15, CWA and the company agreed on the System Board of Adjustment to make sure cases unresolved through the Grievance Procedure are sent to a neutral party for resolution. Full details of the meeting are here. The bargaining team will be back at the table October 20-21. The positive results at the bargaining table over the summer include an interim procedure that will allow non-probationary employees to file a grievance and have a union steward fight their case if they are suspended, terminated, or given a performance advisory or other discipline that affects their pay. Agents also should be sure to take a steward with them if they are called in to meet with management as part of an investigation and think the issue could lead to discipline. This procedure, which is now in place, makes it even more important that Envoy agents have plenty of stewards at each station to help guide them and answer questions along the way. As of mid-September, CWA has trained 75 Envoy stewards, but more are needed. Two more trainings are scheduled for Fall 2016, with a special focus on making sure there are stewards at the smaller stations. We asked a couple of agents who recently “graduated” from steward training about their experiences. They had some good advice for other agents who are thinking about trying out the role of steward. Wayne Schwark (ORD) attended training in Chicago in July. He says he became a steward in order to be a voice for other agents at his station and in his district and to make sure there is a fair and level playing field for everyone. “I think the most important thing I've learned about being a steward is that you must be fair and impartial because each employee deserves the same level of protection,” says Wayne. He advises other agents to consider steward training if they believe they can be knowledgeable, trustworthy, and set a good example in the workplace. “It’s important to have in-depth knowledge of company policy and the contract to serve as a steward,” says Wayne. And that’s what the training provides. Wayne adds that he likes to remind people that so much of what we take for granted—vacation time, sick leave, paid holidays, and FMLA—exists because of unions. Working people must join together and demand decent wages and benefits. So what’s next in terms of progress at Envoy? Wayne thinks the disparity in pay between agents doing the same work in the airline industry is a “tough pill to swallow.” “Our airline boasted astronomical profits last year, but the executives are content to keep most workers earning less than a living wage. At Envoy, we’re way overdue for unionization and better pay and benefits, and that’s why I wanted to become a steward.” Shana Shaw (DFW) agrees. Shana participated in steward training in early August. She sees her role as providing strong support for her fellow Envoy agents, and that means being easily available to talk about questions, grievances, and procedures whenever she’s needed. “I always want to get a dialogue going,” says Shana. “If I have any advice for people who are thinking about becoming stewards, it’s that you have to be a really good listener and to be trustworthy. Understand that you’re taking on a serious responsibility for someone’s life when they talk about their problems at work. You have to respect their confidentiality.” For Shana, the role of steward is about service. “We need good stewards at Envoy, so I hope more people will join the training. We need people who want to advocate for others who may not be able to speak up for themselves and people who can build a positive relationship with management. We don’t want to create battles or lead with fear. We want consistency and fairness across the company, which is going to help us and help passengers. It’s good for everyone.” If you want to learn more about steward training at Envoy, click on the link to the steward sign up form here.