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What's your role?

As an SEIU steward, your job involves much, much more than handling grievances.

Grievances are important. They are often the most visible and dramatic aspect of the union's presence. Sometimes they'll take up most of your time.

But grievances should never be confused with your chief responsibility as a steward: to build a united, organized, and involved membership in your workplace.

Without this involvement and solidarity, no union in the world can protect and serve its members.

As a leader in the workplace, you'll have your hands full. That's because SEIU stewards are ...

Organizers. This is the big one. It doesn't just mean signing up new members, although it means that too. It means SEIU stewards are responsible for organizing the whole workplace to deal with problems as a united group.Which is, when you think about it, what labor unions are all about.

Problem solvers. You're the person workers turn to with their problems. It might be a work-site hazard. Maybe someone's been fired, or perhaps layoffs are threatened. It might be just a new employee with a question. Perhaps you can solve the problem with a friendly word, or maybe you'll organize a worksite action or file a grievance. Problems don't go with your territory. They are your territory.

Educators and communicators. The contract. The health insurance plan. What's a "ULP"? How can I do this? Why did they do that? It's a complicated world, and your members are counting on you to help them make sense of it. Equally important, your union officers are counting on you to help them keep in touch with your co-workers. You work with them every day. They don't.

Worksite leaders. You're the one who keeps it moving. You're the one who's not afraid to speak up to management. You make unity happen, and you never let anyone forget there's a union at your worksite. (Nobody said this job is easy.)

The sections that follow will explain some of your different jobs in more detail. (Pages with the symbol « provide handy checklists of things stewards need to know, have, and do.)

For now, it's enough that you understand and accept your wide responsibility in the workplace, and remember that your primary duties are to organize and to solve problems. (You'll see later how those two duties go hand in hand.)