The Shop Steward (or union representative or union steward) in a unionized workplace is a member of the union whose job it is to represent and defend the interests of the other bargaining unit employees in various discussions with management, including but not limited to, the processing of grievances. His or her function is to act as a liaison between the employees and management, to serve as a sounding board for union member concerns or complaints, and to take part in grievance handling. In order to anticipate employee grievances and avoid labor/management conflict where possible, shop stewards are generally well versed in the terms and provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and are likely to discuss with management any breaches of that agreement.
The Shop Steward also serves as a conduit for information, memos, and policy statements by the union. As a rule the Shop Steward is an employee of the company but enjoys certain rights in the execution of his/her union duties. For example, the agreement may provide a certain number of hours per week during which the Shop Steward may engage in union-related business while still receiving pay from the employer. It is often up to the Shop Steward to advise employees when they should file a grievance and assist them in doing so. An equally important function is to screen employee complaints and provide guidance for employees who may feel they have been aggrieved. This function aims at maintaining a smooth working relationship between management and employees and avoiding frivolous grievances.