The union steward is both an employee of the organization and a union official. The union steward is elected by the union members. It is the steward who is the union`s watchdog. The steward must be constantly aware of how the supervisor is administering the contract. It is often the steward who initiates a grievance. At the same time, however, it is to the supervisor`s advantage to develop a good relationship with the steward. The relationship between the supervisor and the steward may be made even more difficult by the fact that the steward may work for the supervisor in performing normal work duties. However, showing respect for the steward`s position is foremost in developing a good relationship. The following suggestions should help to foster a good relationship with the steward.

  1. Keep the steward informed. A supervisor who tries to sneak changes through without the steward`s knowledge is likely to have a grievance filed. It is much wiser for the supervisor to inform the steward and avoid unnecessary time-consuming grievances. Many times the steward can help to work out the little problems before they develop into grievances.
  2. Show that you understand and appreciate the difficulty of the steward`s job. The steward must serve two leaders: management as a good employee and the union as a good union official. The supervisor should not be more lenient with the steward than with the other employees. But, it helps to show consideration for the steward`s responsibilities.
  3. Show the steward a willingness to compromise. Supervisors must, of course, know when to compromise. They must be careful to compromise only on issues within their authority. For instance, a supervisor might agree not to discipline an employee for tardiness because of problems beyond the employee`s control. Supervisors, however, should not agree to consult the union before using discipline for tardiness. Furthermore, supervisors must get their bosses` permission before making any exceptions to the contract.

Indicate whether each of the following statements is true or false by writing "T" or "F" in the space provided.

  1. In unionized organizations the industrial relations manager is the primary link between the organization and the union members.
  2. The smart supervisor can find ways of restraining employees from joining a union.
  3. Both the union and management can speak their minds about the other side during a union organization drive.
  4. It is good strategy to tell a union steward only what is required by law and no more.


  1. False. The supervisor is the primary link between the organization and union members.
  2. False. The Labor-Management Relations Act, passed in 1947, made it illegal to restrain employees from forming or joining a union.
  3. True. However, both parties are forbidden by law to use threats or reprisals or promises of benefits in order to get an employee to choose or not to choose union representation.
  4. False. It is much wiser to keep the union steward fully informed as to what is going on-such a strategy will usually reduce grievances and create a favorable atmosphere.

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