Have Questions? Ask Away!
/ Author: Justine Van Bolhuis
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Have Questions? Ask Away!

CLAC stewards aren’t afraid to challenge all of us to work better together

By Justine Van Bolhuis

I had the privilege of attending the 2023 Prairies Stewards Conference in beautiful Jasper, Alberta, in April. The three-day event was filled with good conversations, learning, laughter, and breathtaking mountain views.

My Research Team colleague Janice Haanstra and I had been asked to lead a course on mental health accommodation in the workplace. Over two sessions, we talked to more than 200 stewards about the dividing line between mental health concerns and mental health disabilities, the legal principles and challenges related to accommodating mental health disabilities, and the important role that stewards play in supporting their coworkers dealing with mental health challenges.

Midway through our first session, as I was still working my way through my slides on the legal aspects of mental health accommodation, a steward in the back row put up his hand, unprompted. Even though we hadn’t intended to include an open Q&A in the session, I swallowed my nerves (who knew what the question might be?) and stopped to give him a chance to ask his question.

He asked me about what I’d just been explaining regarding the impact of accommodations on coworkers, connecting it to his workplace and highlighting how it could present a challenge in a highly seniority-driven environment.

I did my best to answer his question. Before I knew it, another steward raised their hand. And from there, throughout the rest of the session, more stewards began to put up their hands and ask their own questions about the material.

For a first-time stewards conference presenter dealing with a few public-speaking jitters, it was an amazing show of active participation and engagement with the topic at hand!

As I reflect on my stewards conference experience and the many stewards I had the chance to meet and interact with over the three days, it strikes me that CLAC stewards are individuals who aren’t afraid to put up their hands and volunteer to serve their coworkers and the union. They come to stewards conferences ready to engage, eager to learn, and excited to put what they’ve learned into practice when they return to their workplaces.

They are the face of the union to more than 60,000 members, going above and beyond to advocate for their fellow workers, and living out the mission and vision of CLAC in workplaces across the country on a daily basis. As a behind-the-scenes staff member who doesn’t get the chance to interact with stewards very often, I came away from the conference with a renewed appreciation for their dedication, passion, and willingness to step forward on behalf of their coworkers and CLAC.

To the stewards who attended our sessions, thank you for putting up your hands and challenging us with your thoughtful and insightful questions. And to all the stewards who serve the union in the Prairies and beyond, thank you for putting up your hands and challenging us all—employers, members, and CLAC— to be better together in the work that we do.   

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