Call him old-fashioned but to Floyd W. Gaines Jr. of King William County “doing what you say, saying what you do” still means “a lot.” As a packing operator for Philip Morris in Richmond, Floyd works as part of a team and relies on his coworkers to, together, get the job done.
Reliability and trust are key.
His coworkers, in turn, also rely on him to address their work-related grievances before management. Floyd is a member of and shop steward for Local 203T of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). But for him, the work of a steward extends beyond the confines of his Philip Morris Richmond plant.
“I want to protect the interests of working, middle-class families like my family,” Floyd says. He wants his and other families to have access to “a good-paying job, good benefits, jobs here in the United States, and education” for the children.
When asked about the difference that an organized workforce makes, he recalls a time when a coworker was suspended for, as the company argued at the time, using inappropriate language while inquiring about vacation time. His coworker turned to his union for help. As shop steward, Floyd helped his coworker go through a grievance process before a neutral, third-party arbitrator, ruled in the coworker’s favor. The company paid the coworker the money it owed to him in wages for the seven-and-a-half-month period he was suspended and gave him his job back.
“He was unjustly dealt with,” Floyd says, referring to his coworker. “And we wanted to make sure that he had, number one, a say so and, two, [that he] be treated like any other employee.”