CLAC HAS SOME SUPER STEWARDS—salt of the earth people who go above and beyond the call of duty, championing their colleagues and fostering a positive atmosphere in the workplace, stewards who go out of their way to make their coworkers feel special.
One of these stewards is Ed Lehn, a Local 68 member and heavy equipment operator working at the massive $10.7 billion Site C hydroelectric project near Fort St. John, BC. I recently heard through the grapevine that Ed has been taking it upon himself to order fast food for his entire crew. No fanfare, no request for permission, no receipt submitted for reimbursement. Just burgers and fries, plain and simple.
I sat down with Ed to learn where he got the idea to treat his coworkers—including members from another union—and how something small like a few burgers can bring smiles and make a work site feel special.
Where did you get the idea to treat your coworkers?
We were coming up on a project milestone—we were working on the concrete base for the powerhouse—and the crew all worked really hard to get there. A couple of the foremen and I came up with the idea to treat the crew—something a bit more substantial than grabbing them a Tim’s. So I picked up the phone and called the local Burger King, and the three of us pitched in to buy $300 worth of hamburgers and fries.
What was the reaction from your crew?
There were smiles all around. Everyone was so happy—it’s a nice treat and a taste of the outside world, since we’re all living in the camp together for three months at a time. We’ve made it a regular thing. Every month or so, we’ll treat our crew to something different. Usually it’s burgers and fries, but we’ve gotten Chinese food and pizza too. It’s a good morale booster.
And not just for your crew, but for the other union on site?
We work side-by-side with the Carpenters’ Union, so buying meals for them too helps build cohesion between the two groups. We all work toward our goals as one team—there’s no division.
Do the two groups get along?
I’ve heard of different trades and different unions on the same work site having lots of issues and butting heads, but we’re lucky in that regard. We all work together without strife or drama.
That says something about the workers on this huge project.
It speaks to the quality of the guys up here. We spend a lot of time together—three months at a time—so your work crew becomes your extended family.
Why do you go out of your way to treat everyone on site?
It’s nice to do something once in a while that shows you appreciate your coworkers and to keep morale up. And because I’m a steward representing CLAC, it shows them that their union really cares about how everyone’s doing.
How long have you been a steward?
I’ve been a steward since I started here in 2016. I’m really lucky in that I’ve gotten to work with pretty much every division within the company.
What’s it like to be a steward?
After a while, once people trust and respect you, they start coming to you with problems that they wouldn’t bring to anyone else. Sometimes, it’s not even work stuff. They just need to vent and need someone to talk to, whether it’s workplace or personal issues.
Do you enjoy it?
It’s amazing to be awarded the opportunity to mentor people on your crew, and help them with problems. It’s a very humbling and rewarding experience.
Thank a Steward
A steward’s work often takes place behind the scenes, and you may never hear about everything that they do. It can also be a thankless job, so a big thank you to all CLAC stewards for the hard work they do and their willingness to step up and help their fellow members.
6 Roles of a Steward
1. Leader – Stewards are elected or appointed by their peers to help build a healthy relationship between employees and management, and help make your workplace a place people are proud to come to every day.
2. Communicator – At times, stewards will be asked to explain provisions of the collective agreement to their fellow members, talk to the supervisor about a grievance, and discuss issues with the CLAC representative.
3. Witness – This is one of the steward’s main roles—to witness events that occur at your workplace. Almost all collective agreements require a steward’s presence whenever management issues a disciplinary letter to an employee. The steward’s job is to help their fellow worker through this.
4. Advocate – Stewards will be asked to defend their coworkers when mistakes have been made by supervisors and management.
5. Champion – CLAC promotes a work environment that is positive and forward thinking. We believe this approach is the future of labour relations, but not everyone agrees with our methods. Stewards may be asked to defend these principles.
6. Builder – Every workplace is made up of a large number of people with different personalities and backgrounds. Stewards are tasked with building relationships and fostering a positive atmosphere while ensuring fairness and justice for everyone.
Don’t Call It a Hamburger!
The hamburger was so named after the Hamburg steak sandwiches eaten on immigrant ships between Hamburg, Germany, and America in the 1800s. But due to anti-German sentiment during WWI, a different name for hamburgers was used: Salisbury steak. This alternative was named after a famous American physician, Dr. James Salisbury, who prescribed a diet rich with ground beef for patients suffering from anemia, asthma, and other illnesses.
In 1921, the burger chain White Castle was founded—the first fast-food restaurant. It established standards of efficiency and cleanliness to offset concerns people had about ground beef due to the poor sanitation practices of the meat-packing industry at the time.
Other fast-food chains would follow its lead, including Burger King, which was founded in 1953 in Florida. The chain was initially called Insta-Burger King and changed its name to Burger King a year later. The chain’s signature burger, the Whopper, was introduced in 1957. Burger King is the fifth-largest fast-food chain by number of locations, with nearly 17,000 locations worldwide, and second-largest hamburger fast-food chain.
Sources: factretriever.com, parade.com, wikipedia.org