Stephanie Swails Steps Up and Speaks Out for Local 1000

Article Published on July 2023

SEIU Local 1000 knows every state worker’s voice matters. Our escalating actions in Sacramento are making CalHR take notice. The power of our Union is in its members, who live across the state, and together, all of us can make a difference in the fight for our contract.

Stephanie Swails, working as a dental assistant in Solano County, serves as the Vice President/Chief Steward of DLC 747. Her coworkers, who often can’t make it to rallies or pickets in major cities, have made their voices heard in their worksites thanks to developing solidarity between workers at different offices and departments.

“When we have actions at worksites with major employers, we try to get fliers to every office in our DLC, even the smaller ones,” said Swails. “It’s easier to get someone involved when they hear it from a friend, see it in their community, and see fliers around their workplaces. We rely on a lot of the activity of our stewards and grievances to keep us engaged with the issues in our workplaces.”

The voice of every member is important and contributes to the fight for our contract. When planning an action, Stephanie speaks to local members to find out when they want to do things and how much they want to do.

“We spend a lot of time talking and strategizing around doing things in the morning, making signs, drawing with chalk, or holding banners at overpasses,” she said. “Whatever our members want to do, we facilitate it, bringing food, support from organizers, and we will get it done.”

Getting involved in your Union is crucial to building power in your workplace and building the strength we need to challenge the State on the real threats of the rising cost of living.

“When it’s your idea, you want to be there,” said Swails. “We focus on building trust and knowing that our coworkers will catch us when we fall. This isn’t a game for us; this is our work and our lives. This is how we feed our kids, pay our rent; this is how we survive.”

Our members can take the lead on rallies when they feel prepared, and they have the support of their coworkers and leadership to take on the difficult fight for respect, protection, and pay in their workplace.

“We all have lives and children and responsibilities at home, but we can all still show our support at the local level,” said Swails. “Getting involved with your DLC, talking with your reps, and calling the Member Resource Center can ensure that you are protected while you exert your legal right to participate in actions in your workplace.”

One method Stephanie has used to develop a sense of solidarity in the workplace is investigating managerial practices made by bosses that violate workers’ rights and showing workers that they are not alone in facing these issues.

“It’s important to grieve things because when a supervisor gets away with something with one person, they’ll repeat it with other workers,” said Swails. “Power goes to people’s heads, and that’s why we have our Union. We have a contract; it has the force of law, and when it’s not followed, that has consequences.”

Filing a grievance for what may seem like a small issue in the workplace can actually expose patterns of mismanagement and even bullying.

“We can take the appropriate corrective actions as stewards to defend our rights and enforce our contract,” said Swales.

When we stand up for each other in our workplaces, we’re not just standing up to specific managers or specific problems.

“Me and you — we are the Union,” said Swales. “Every time we look in the mirror, we’re seeing the Union. We’re member-led, and we have to depend on ourselves to get this campaign going.”