Our Spotlight blog for this month will feature Bill Johnson. Bill is a 20-year ATU Local 583 Member and the current Recording Secretary/Maintenance Office of the Local. Bill has also previously been Chief Steward of Maintenance and on the Executive Board as the Maintenance representative.
1. How did you get involved in ATU Local 583 and how did that lead to your position as RS/MO?
I started with Calgary Transit on the Servicelane at Spring Gardens on January 25, 2000. My joy of activism led me to become involved in the Union very early in my career. I stepped forward to become a Job Steward about 4 months into my employment. During the 2001 49-Day-Strike I was a picket captain. I was then elected as a Shop Steward at Victoria Park for the 2002-2004 term. For 2005-2007 I was elected as an Executive Board Member for Maintenance. Moving ahead to 2008-2010 I was elected Chief Steward of Maintenance. The next term I was elected into Office as Recording Secretary Maintenance Office and I have held that position since 2011 to present day.
2. What do you consider to be the most important strengths of ATU 583?
I think one of the key strengths in our Union is advocating for Members and fairness for all. We do this by negotiating fair collective agreements and representing our Members when needed with management. We also need to be open to changing with the times and adapting in how we proceed and I am personally very proud of how we’ve been able to accomplish that. More direct lines to the Members for communication and focus on engaging with Members online has really helped open the door for more conversation and a better understanding of the issues.
3. What advice do you have for Members who would like to be more involved?
If you want to get more involved you need to be a good listener and a good communicator. Also, during this year and through the pandemic we have worked very hard to increase communications with our Members. The ability to stay informed is very important. For example, it is a good idea to attend meetings, join our Telegram Group, follow along on our Facebook and consider checking out some of the WhatsApp chats to stay informed on what Members are thinking, what they feel are important issues and to stay up to date with the Union in general.
4. What challenges have you had to face/overcome in order to represent Members in the best possible way, while in office?
Although there are always challenges in this office, I would say the toughest challenge as a grievance handler is convincing management to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Another demanding part of the job is protecting the integrity of our Members. For example, conveying to our Members to be 100% honest and forthright when they have made a mistake. It’s human nature to defend yourself and your actions but it is important to recognize if and when you’ve made an error and to own up to that and do the work to prevent it from happening again. Working with Members and helping them to acknowledge their mistakes if they have made any, can be quite the challenge. Of course, we will always represent every Member no matter the situation and as previously stated management can also be wrong. All of this makes for a very busy and very interesting workplace.
5. We would love to hear about other forms of activism you’ve been involved in:
During my time in office I have been very active with WCB issues (sitting on the Labour Coalition), working with the CDLC as well as supporting other Unions in their struggles.
I am also very proud to have the privilege to MC for the ATU 583 Retiree’s Banquet every year, as well as being the MC for the CDLC Labour Day BBQ each year.
I am also Assistant Sports Director with Double Blue!
6. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your family and/or your interests during your free time:
I have been very involved with my career and have put in very long days ever since coming into office and it has been very rewarding to know I play an important role in our Member’s lives.
In my spare time, I enjoy following sports (hockey, baseball, football etc.) and I golf in the summer with a number of friends inside and outside of Calgary Transit.
I also have a great circle of friends in the music industry, primarily the Country Music Scene and I do like to attend live music events such as Country Thunder (during normal times lol!).
In the winter I participate in a Curling League on Sunday mornings at the Calgary Curling Club.