Steward’s blog: Tough union conversations

First things first, you’ve probably seen a few updates from Tim Markham about the 6% raise fight. While the Governor’s staff was receptive to our demands, the budget forecasts for this year are not in our favor.

That means stewards will be critical in this fight. You will need to mobilize workers in your facilities during the various stages of the campaign, which will last several months: first to put pressure on the Governor to include a raise in his budget proposal, next on the Joint Budget Committee to appropriate the necessary funds for the increase, and finally on the full legislature to approve the state’s budget.

Throughout this process, we will need legislators at the State Capitol who understand the critical need for addressing lagging pay for state workers and will back us in our demands. That’s why we have to pledge to support local candidates who will support a 6% raise for state employees. 

If you haven’t yet, please pledge to vote early in this election (ballots will be mailed out in just about 3 weeks).

Tough union conversations

As a Steward, this task probably falls on you quite often. Answering tough questions for your coworkers is always hard, but it can get easier with some proven strategies.

At your Steward training, you probably talked about one such strategy: Affirm. Answer. Redirect. 

The idea is to focus on your message, while validating the person’s feelings, and to bring the conversation back to a productive discussion about solutions and action.


  • Your coworkers may be scared or upset by something they heard from another coworker or a manager. Getting mad at them won’t get you far. By acknowledging their problem and sympathazing with their feelings you’re more likely to get someone to listen to you.


  • This is your chance to set the record straight. If they are misinformed, tell them the truth (politely, of course). If they are scared, set them at ease. Always tell the truth, and if you’re not sure if you know the right answer, be honest about that too. Don’t guess, instead say that you’ll check and get back to them (and then follow through).


  • Change the topic from a fear of change toward thinking about how to improve your workplace. What would they do differently? How can we enact change together? Redirect the conversation toward actions and solutions, and eventually toward what being part of a union is really all about.

Would you like to watch some examples in action? Watch this short video about the Affirm Answer Redirect strategy of answering questions.

As with most things, practicing the Affirm Answer Redirect tactic is the key to getting it right. Is there another technique that’s worked well for you at work? Let me know and we’ll include your feedback in the next Steward’s Blog!


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