Inside the Steel-Toe Boots
By Nathan Koslowsky
It's the same thing, from site trailer to site trailer—members take on a handful of roles I’ve come to expect. There’s the talker, the helpful soul, the person who wants everything to be the way it was at their old workplace, Mr. Stink Eye, the affable guy, and the guys who are glued to their phones.
The questions I receive are often familiar too: “What about my benefits? Do I match my employer’s retirement contributions? I’m ticked off about a health and safety issue and want the union to do something about it. When are you bringing CLAC shirts?”
Don’t get me wrong—these site visits are productive. I wouldn’t want them to be any other way. We solve problems together and helpful information is communicated. We all typically walk away from these meetings a little smarter.
The really interesting conversations typically happen later, one-on-one. Sometimes they occur on site, at the member centre, or in a coffee shop. In smaller settings like these, we all seem more comfortable letting our guards down a bit, and the real person begins to shine through, rather than the role we assume at work. Members bring me their individual concerns, questions, or ideas in these smaller settings. It’s during these conversations where people can shake off their tough-guy persona and reveal the human being they are underneath.
I am honoured to be a part of these interactions. It’s in these conversations that I am reminded of all the complexities going on in addition to your work-life: relationship breakdowns, custody battles, addictions, sick or dying loved ones, financial woes, rebellious children . . . and the list goes on.
I love these authentic conversations. I love to hear your story. Why you are the way you are. How you got into the trades. What you love about your job and what drives you nuts. Who the people are that you connect with best on the job, and who you don’t connect with, and why. Why you react to conflict the way you do. What you’re like at home. What makes you laugh out loud and what breaks your heart. The moment you were at your proudest and who was there to see it. The career path you are considering. The legacy you want to leave.
I want to answer your technical questions and support you when things get hard at work—but I also want to know the person inside those steel-toe boots, because you bring all of you at work and are more than what you do.
You are so much more than the hammer you swing or the machine you operate. And while our collective agreements focus on wages, benefits, retirement, and dispute resolution, we are interested in supporting your whole person.
The dignity of your person is deeply and intrinsically valuable. You matter because of who you are, not because of what you do. So we care about who you are at work, and about the rest of you too. It takes courage to check the bravado at the door, and it is an honour to be trusted with your time, concerns, and conversations.