What is is and how to get involved
By William Denton
Steward for Libraries (2019-22)
Stewards’ Council Representative to the YUFA Executive Committee (2019-20)
The Stewards’ Council is an interesting and important part of YUFA, and I recommend serving as a steward to any member who wants to learn more about or get involved with the Association. This year (my ninth as a steward for the Libraries), I’m on the Executive Committee for the first time, as one of two Stewards’ Council representatives, so I’ve seen things from both sides.
Stewards’ Council is made up of stewards elected by colleagues in units and departments (usually one steward per every 50 members) and representatives from the Disability, Indigenous, Queer, and Race Equity Caucuses. All YUFA Executive Committee members are also on the Council. It meets once a month, but not in the summer.
The Council is both an advisory group to the Executive Committee and a check on its power.
Stewards’ Council provides a check because many decisions made by the Executive Committee must be ratified by the Council (for example, appointments to committees, including joint committees with the Employer) and bargaining positions must be approved by the Council before going to the general membership (which can change them). Governance rules must also go through the Council first. The Executive Committee brings all these matters to the Council where they are discussed and questions asked. This means that the Executive Committee is responsible to an elected group of representatives from all parts of the membership.
It is an advisory group because the Executive Committee regularly takes issues to the Council for discussion and feedback. The stewards give their own insights and say how they think their colleagues in their departments would feel. There are many ways YUFA seeks out the opinions of its members, but Stewards’ Council is especially important because it meets regularly and there’s time for detailed discussions of issues, when needed. Every Executive Committee meeting I’ve been at, people have said, “Let’s take this to the Stewards’ Council to find out more.”
The Council is also where the Chief Stewards (the grievance officers) and YUFA’s Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on the Administration of the Agreement (JCOAA) give reports and listen to problems. The Chief Stewards give an overview of the grievances underway, new issues that are cropping up, things they’re watching out for, signs from the Employer, and so on. The JCOAA Co-Chair reports on how YUFA and the Employer are trying to work out problems about the implementation of the Collective Agreement, and also on long-term planning (for example, Markham). All three are actively looking for problems and issues to take up and all three rely on the stewards to report concerns from their units.
YUFA staff members are also active at the Council meetings, listening to problems, reporting on happenings, and giving expert advice.
Because of all this, Stewards’ Council is a great way to be actively involved with YUFA, while learning more about everything it does week to week. It’s interesting, informative, and rewarding, and sometimes also frustrating and annoying, like service work can be. I highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in YUFA and unions.
Please also note: There are a number of units and departments that currently do not have elected representatives on Stewards’ Council. You can see a full listing of representatives and vacancies on this page.
All positions on YUFA councils and committees are considered service to the University.
If you’d like to learn more about Stewards’ Council, including how to become a steward, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.