A union representative, union steward, or shop steward is an employee of an organization or company who represents and defends the interests of her/his fellow employees but who is also a labor union official. Rank-and-file members of the union hold this position voluntarily (through democratic election by fellow workers or sometimes by appointment of a higher union body) while maintaining their role as an employee of the firm. As a result, the union steward becomes a significant link and conduit of information between the union leadership and rank-and-file workers.