Shop stewards are the backbone of any labor union and necessary for the union to wield the power in the workplace that members deserve. Knowing that, AFT-Maryland convened a statewide training for public employee stewards to equip them with the skills and resources they need to help their colleagues as best as possible. Members from across the state, working in diverse industries from higher education professionals to correctional staff, came to Baltimore for the day-long training. AFT Union Leadership Institute’s la’Rufus Mitchell served as the facilitator for the event.
Mitchell caught the attention of the stewards by reminding them that “union starts with u-n-i” emphasizing that labor organizations are only as strong as their members. The training provided opportunities for stewards to meet with AFT-Maryland members from across the state and exchange best practices and find places of common struggle, and common progress.
MTA/MDOT field supervisor Donald Maynard, a member of the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) Local 1935, said he thought learning alongside members from other AFT-Maryland unions was helpful because “we get to know different people from different agencies and the issues they have, and the challenges they have as shop stewards, and where they want to go from this training.” Building on that point, Josephine Titanji, a registered nurse with the Baltimore County Health Department and member of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses (BCFPHN) Local 5102, said “no matter what area or job specification, issues are basically the same - they’re very similar. So hearing other people having the same issues that we’re facing felt really comfortable, it didn’t feel alone. It felt like, hey, when we come together we might make things work.”
Unity among state federation members cannot be understated. The steward training’s impact reaches all the way out to western Maryland. “We’re in little Hagerstown and we think we’re all alone there and knowing how many people are affected throughout the state of Maryland, that will be helpful for me to take back,” said Stefanie Lysiak, a librarian at Roxbury Correctional Institution and member of the Maryland Professional Employees Council (MPEC) Local 6197.
The training was informative and helpful connecting members with resources that they can take back to their worksites. The stewards in attendance remained focused during the entire training attributing much of that to the engaging facilitator leading the workshop. Beyond the direct lesson, there were a host of interactive and collective activities that members worked on allowing them the opportunity to foster and nurture relationships with fellow AFT-Maryland members.
Story and photos by AFT-Maryland staff