From Worker stories

Pankaj Sharma, IL

Pankaj Sharma_editI view my job as an educator as a privilege. I teach a range of social science classes including United States History, Government and Politics, and African and Latin American Studies at Niles North High School in Niles, Illinois. But I truly view my profession as the work of shaping young minds and making sure they are ready to go out into the world as good citizens.

Their success is in our nation’s best interest. That means giving them the best education, using the best tools, tactics and technology available is in our nation’s best interest, too. I want students to be in classes of a decent size, so teachers can connect with them and make sure they are connecting with the material. I also want to make sure that I have the ability to go to classes and trainings so I can stay up-to-date with the best practices of teaching today. Read more

Kevin Burgos, CT

Burgos Kevin (002)I have worked at Dunkin Donuts in Hartford, CT for the past 10 years. It’s a good job and I work hard, but when you only earn $11.50 an hour, no amount of hard work is going to cover all your costs.

I’m also a father of four kids between the ages of 7 and 3. Making sure they have what they need is my top priority. That includes an apartment to live in – where the electricity and gas are on – as well as food to eat, and money to take the bus. The expenses add up.

And even though I work, I’ve been forced to rely on public assistance in order to cover those basic costs. That’s why two years ago, I joined the National Organizing Committee of the Fight for $15 movement. Working people like me should have the ability to join together to negotiate for a wage that we can support our families on. Read more

Jennifer Bado-Aleman, MD

Jennifer Bado-AlemanAs a child of immigrants, I recognize the important role that public education plays in affording equal social and economic opportunities to all students, regardless of their background. That’s why I’ve dedicated my career to preparing students to make the most of these opportunities and rise to their full potential both in and out of the classroom. I am currently the English Department Resource Teacher at Gaithersburg High School and help students develop the literacy and writing skills they need to be successful in college and their careers.

Unions are so important to teachers because they provide us with resources similar to what I seek to provide to my students: a forum in which voices can be heard and individuals can work together to achieve greater benefits for themselves and their families. Wealthy special interests are attempting to silence those voices in the Supreme Court case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association and make it harder for working Americans to speak up and get ahead. Read more

Peter MacKinnon (002)

Peter MacKinnon, MA

I am a child protective supervisor with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and I see the work my colleagues and I do as the frontline for children’s safety in our state. I chose to pursue a career in social work because I care deeply about helping families provide safe homes for children. That work routinely puts me in difficult situations, situations that call upon the training and tools I’ve been provided through my union. Being a union member allows me to make the most of my job, which benefits both myself and those who I help.

These are often high stakes situations and we need to be able to provide the very best response. After a series of unfortunate tragedies, our union knew we needed to take action to protect vulnerable children. Our ability to join together has allowed me and my colleagues to reform child protection in Massachusetts. With the support of my union, I led a two-year effort backed by 3,000 front-line social workers to improve the state’s services available for child safety. Our goal was to bring the best practices in child social work to Massachusetts. That meant ensuring social workers in the field had mobile communications and bringing state caseloads in line with national standards, and update child social work to best practices. Read more

Ryan Eckes, PA

Ryan Eckes bio pic (002)I’ve been an adjunct professor of English at Temple University, the Community College of Philadelphia, Rowan University and Philadelphia University over the last decade. I’m proud to have been a member of those academic communities. I’m just as proud to be a member of United Academics of Philadelphia, a union of adjunct professors.

Adjunct professors are integral members of college communities. We teach classes. We help shape departments. But our designation as adjunct means we are not considered full members of the faculty. That means our interactions with our universities are often different than those of other professors. Read more

Stephen Mittons, IL

Stephen Mittons AFSCMEIn my line of work, there is no “typical” day. I have been a child protective investigator in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for the past 20 years, working in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods to bring children into safer situations.

I spend most of my time on the streets of those communities. My colleagues and I have to make tough calls every day: the decision to remove children from a family for their protection or to refer those families to resources that will strengthen and sustain them to keep them intact. Those families are in need of the best possible assistance from the DCFS, and frontline employees have a tremendous responsibility to the children in these families and we need the resources to meet it. Read more

Maya Walker

Maya Walker, CA

As the library technician at Hayward High School, I get the opportunity to work with students and teachers every day. It’s my responsibility to ensure that our library has the books, resources and materials that not only help students succeed in school and life, but also reflect the diversity of our students.

Hayward is a very diverse community and it’s important that all students see their culture reflected in their school. It’s equally important that as educators, we expose students to diverse cultures that may not be part of their own heritage and practices, so we can all better understand each other. Our school library makes these connections for students and their families. Read more

Reagan Duncan, CA

Reagan DuncanAs a Kindergarten and first grade teacher at Maryland Elementary School, I get to work with wonderful students and their families who come from all walks of life. At my school, 89% of our students are English learners, and just as many are low socioeconomic status families receiving free and reduced lunch.

Coupled with not knowing the language, the lack of resources in our students’ homes makes it difficult for parents to know why students may be struggling in school, what additional help or services they need, and exactly what is available to them through our school. Read more

Dawn O’Neal, GA

Photo by David Sachs / SEIU

Photo by David Sachs / SEIU

I work in the three-year-old classroom at a child care center in Atlanta. I teach 19 children their letters and numbers. I read to them, and make sure they are safe and happy.

I love working with children, but at $8.50 an hour, I struggle. We can’t live on what we’re making. At the end of the month, I have to lay my bills out and choose what I can pay for with what I have left. Do I buy food or my asthma pump? Everything I make is going just to survive. 

I have to rely on the emergency room for health care. Sometimes I have to borrow my daughter’s asthma pump because she has asthma too. You feel like a hamster in a cage. We’re spinning around and getting absolutely nowhere. Nothing is being saved. Read more

Stephanie Wiley, OH

Stephanie Wiley 1Every day I wake up before the sun rises to prepare for three daily shifts aiding students with special needs on their way to and from school. For 25 years, I have devoted my life to making sure children with physical and mental disabilities get to school safely and have a consistent, reliable adult presence when they leave home.

As a childcare attendant at the Transportation Department of Columbus City Schools, I assist students who take the bus to school, helping them with their wheelchairs, walkers and books.

I pride myself on being a trusted presence for children who often need someone to talk to about school and issues they face outside of school. Too often, the children are victims of bullying and they rely on me and my coworkers to provide a safe and comfortable environment when they are away from home. Read more