As soon as she saw the gains that regular people achieve through organizing, Shaine Truscott says she was hooked.

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Shaine Truscott

What do you do? I’m the field director for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775, a union of 44,000 caregivers in Washington and Montana. Our members care for our elderly and people with disabilities. Our union works to improve the lives of caregivers, and the clients they care for. I work to make sure that our union is strong, and that members’ voices and stories are heard by decision makers.

How did you get started in that field? I was looking for a job as a nursing assistant. An online search pulled up a temporary canvassing position. The headline read, “Help caregivers make improvements to their wages and benefits.” I barely knew what a union was, but I knew that caregivers deserved more, so I threw myself into it. As soon as I saw the gains that regular people achieve through organizing, I was hooked.

What’s a typical day like? My favorite days are when I’m with workers standing up for themselves and demanding positive changes — either through rallies and marches, grassroots lobbying, electing pro-worker politicians or taking action at work. On those days, I usually coordinate the action, lead chants and provide support to workers standing up for themselves. I also spend a lot of time planning and coordinating campaigns and making sure everything is running smoothly.

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What’s the best part of the work? Winning. When we win, people’s lives improve. Our union has made life-changing improvements to caregivers’ wages and benefits. But we don’t stop there. I spent a year campaigning with thousands of others for Obamacare — now, my two siblings have insurance. Last year, I worked on our minimum wage law — this April, all my friends making minimum wage are getting a raise. It’s incredible what organizing can accomplish.

What surprises people about what you do? I think people are surprised that I’m a young woman, since that’s not the typical face of union leadership. The truth is, our generation has a lot of work to do to build the future we deserve. We can’t do that without changing how we treat labor and working people. It doesn’t surprise me that young people are stepping up. It’s our future.