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His picket sign says: Not caviar, just bread and butter. In February he took a course for new shop stewards. In March, hes a picket captain walking the line on the first day of CUPE 1165s strike.

Ive been a shop steward for two months and now Im on strike, Ben Lavallee says with good humour. Lavallee, a custodian at Northern Secondary School in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, undoubtedly enjoys joking around. His e-mail moniker is MRGROWLEY named after his dog.

It was through Local 1165s vice-president Harold Brush that Lavallee decided to become a shop steward. While the Local Near North School Board custodial/maintenance, office and technical workers has about 290 members, they are spread out over different towns.

I met him (Brush) last summer, he says. It was basically him who guided me along the way.

We didnt have a shop steward and we werent getting any information about what was going on Everybody had their ideas about how things worked but no one was really sure.

Lavallee says the course was fun and he learned from it.

It was a great learning experience and if anyone is interested in being a shop steward, they should take the course, he says. Youve got to know what youre doing and youve got to be able to educate people.

We went through procedures there were a lot of role playing situations.

When he gets back to work, Lavallee says the members are going to put up their own CUPE notice board in the lunchroom so when the guys walk in the room, they can look at our own bulletin board. And hes going to learn more about stewarding.

I know theres another advanced steward course in April and I plan to take that, he says. Right now, Im just on strike hoping to get a contract, thats my main goal.

Doreen Meyer