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Marlene Kuleza cant remember exactly how long she was a steward with CUPE 998 at Manitoba Hydro before she became chief steward. But she knows its the only job in the union for her.

This is where I know I make a difference. Its a rewarding job. Its hard, says Kuleza. I prefer being chief steward. To me its more in contact with people and consistency is important.

Kuleza, who works in Hydros micrographics department restoring engineer drawings, was elected chief steward more than three years ago. To her the most important part of the job is being there for people, to see someone smile when a plan comes together.

I have extended myself cell phone, off hours Ive gone to their homes, she says. The bottom line is to be somebody whom they know they can come to, feel confident with.

Kuleza uses a FYI Corner in 998s newsletter to get out information to the Locals 850 members on questions people bring to her. Her style is to try and resolve issues before involving the union formally but Kuleza isnt afraid to be “the voice” for those too scared to speak for themselves.

Somebody has to be an advocate, she says. If they need me, I am there. You have to have a passion for people to try and make a difference for the better or at least go down fighting for them.

My father was a steward. My brother was a steward (for CN). I guess its in the blood.

n 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.