Leaving Things Better
By Nathan Koslowsky, CLAC Representative
I was recently chatting with a CLAC steward on the phone. He’d been contemplating a promotion from his employer that would effectively leave him resigning his post as union steward. As he reflected on his years as a steward, he mused: “I hope things are better now. I want to leave things better than they were when I got here. I think that they are.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Well, truth be told, I was touched. His words are profound and they get close to what is near to the heart of all great union representatives: what they believe, what they want, and what they get out of serving in some variety of leadership capacity at CLAC.
That steward’s hope is framed by a key set of foundational convictions necessary for his “I want to leave things better” way of life. He believed that one person can help make a difference. He believed in “we together” over “me, myself, and I.” He believed that saying something mattered, that speaking up rather than biting his tongue led to better outcomes.
He cared about the underdog. He had patience for those who took a little longer to understand. He was not afraid to say hard things, kindly. He respected the women and men he sweated alongside, as well as those who directed the work.
He served because he wanted to leave a positive legacy in his workplace. He wanted to improve things, moving beyond the way they were to what they could be. He wanted it to matter because he’d been there. He wanted to make a difference for others.
And while union leadership is oftentimes thankless work, his service was a source of enduring pride, pleasure, and satisfaction for him. Thankfully, while this may sound a lot like a eulogy, and while the steward in mind here has moved on from the role, he is not dead. In fact, one of the benefits of electing and training great stewards is that many of them end up getting promoted to management positions—where the tools they pick up as a steward will continue to serve the people within their purview with dignity and respect.