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Anna Ibarra was only 16 when she became a CUPE member and a municipal lifeguard. A decade later, Ibarra is now a busy shop steward for CUPE 374.

The local represents 1,800 municipal employees from Colwood, Oak Bay, Saanich, Sidney and North Saanich on Vancouver Island.

Ibarra works as an aquatic technician at Gordon Head Rec Centre in Victoria where she does admin duties and runs the swimming lesson program for all ages, from babies to seniors. She and fellow shop steward, Justin Schmid, work with the locals 300-plus recreation unit members.

Like a lot of staff before I worked here I took for granted all the rights that I had. Now I am really aware. A lot of people get their rights abused, she says.

A steward for more than three years, Ibarra says she enjoys helping people and educating others about how the contract applies. Taking up the stewards position has given her the opportunity to pick up some new skills.

Its made me a lot more competent at public speaking because you have to speak on behalf of other people. I didnt even realize it was happening, she adds.

Ibarra has put those speaking skills to good use by joining the locals grievance committee. She decided to become more active after watching how things worked at executive meetings.

I didnt speak up for a while, she says. Local 374 shop stewards go to executive meetings. It gets them more interested.

After attending her first CUPE BC convention in June, Ibarra is now focused on learning how to set up the locals web site to get more information out to members. Getting active is a great way to pick up new skills, she says.

You can get all the training from CUPE, meet people and get advice from others who have been active in the union for years.

Doreen Meyer

If you have a stewards experience that youd like to share, send us a note or an e-mail to comm@cupe.ca. Or if youre having a problem and youd like some help, send us a question and well ask others for their advice.