One steward leading the charge
Debbie Chesser, a 32-year veteran registered nurse and an AFT Healthcare-Maryland member accepted the challenge to lead and became a steward for members at Eastern Shore Hospital in Cambridge, Md. When she started working at the hospital a year ago, Chesser had never been in a union although she had been in management. "I've seen both sides of things, and I saw things that I knew were not right. I wanted to speak up about it."
Chesser's goal as a steward is to educate her colleagues about the importance of their voice on the job and the work of the union. Although the steward structure at the hospital is a work in progress, Chesser and the other stewards have managed—through their one-on-one communication strategy—to persuade a significant number of their colleagues to become full-time members. “When I approach people about the union, I focus on issues that are important to us all—like workplace safety and staffing,” she says. The union has done a lot in those areas, Chesser adds, and members are excited about that; they are open to what the stewards have to say, and they want to be a part of what the union is doing. “The fact that our union has been proactive in addressing our priorities has had an effect on the membership. It has awakened a voice that we may not have had a few years ago.”