From Worker stories

Bobby Jones, NH

Bobby JonesI have been in law enforcement for 27 years because I believe in serving my community and making New Hampshire a better place to live for everyone.

As a Police Dispatch Supervisor, I am responsible for making sure that law enforcement officials who respond to the scene of a crime understand the nature of the incident. I am also responsible for coordinating with courts and officers to effect warrant arrests.

The Dispatchers I work with are extremely important in the effort to maximize the Department’s ability to respond to murders, domestic violence, burglaries and vandalism. Our training, working conditions and equipment are essential to saving lives and protecting our communities.

Read more

David Orr, CT

david_orr1To me, being in law enforcement is about more than doing a job, it’s about being a part of the backbone of your community. I have been in law enforcement for 15 years, working as a patrolman at the New York City Police Department, as a narcotics officer, a detective, and also on SWAT.

I am currently a patrol supervisor with the Norwalk, Connecticut Police Department, where I supervise the squad of patrolmen on the midnight shift. These are the women and men who do whatever it takes to keep our community safe, who we rely on in our darkest moments.

When one of our nation’s darkest moments happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, I was one of the many officers who assisted that community. And in the months following that tragedy I worked with my union to help assist the officers who responded in a moment of crisis and were struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Read more

Renee Aguilar, AK

Renee AguilarAs an Emergency Preparedness Planning Coordinator at the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services, my job is to make sure Alaskans are prepared to respond to and prevent large-scale disasters.

Working with government agencies, first responders like EMS and Fire Fighters, and community partners, my colleagues and I form a Crisis Health Action Team. We coordinate disaster responses to mass casualty situations and medical emergencies like an Ebola outbreak.

For 17 years, I have made it my calling to protect Alaskans from the unique and sometimes dangerous elements and conditions we face here in our state. As a union member, I have stood together with my colleagues at work to make sure that we, as frontline public service employees, maintain a strong voice on the job in order to speak up for measures that keep first responders and the public safe. Read more

Ralph Carmona, ME

Ralph CarmonaAs an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College and VP of SEIU-MSEA’s Adjunct Faculty chapter, I see, firsthand, the positive difference we make as union members.

Just three years ago, adjunct professors at Maine’s community colleges had no viable benefits, job security or sick leave; really, no hope for a stable career path.  A teachable moment came when I learned of a neighbor teaching five classes on three different college campuses and driving over 100 miles a week. Denied the opportunity to teach four of her classes, she avoided homelessness in the neighborhood by collecting recyclable cans and working a below-minimum wage job at the local drive-in theater. This woman has three college degrees.

Due to the success of our organizing work on college campuses, adjunct professors – like my neighbor who is now a union member –  feel more appreciated as participants in the Maine Community College System. Winning a voice on the job, their morale improves and they see the potential to connect much better with students in a positive way. Students, faculty and higher education all win in this effort. Read more

Tonia McMillian, CA

SEIU childcare provider Tonia McMillian, photo © 2010 Slobodan Dimitrov

SEIU childcare provider Tonia McMillian, photo © 2010 Slobodan Dimitrov

For the last 11 years, I have been working to organize our union of family child care providers in California. We started—and continue—with the goal of raising up our profession as we raise up the next generation of smart kids in our family child care homes. Through those years, we’ve had the companionship and encouragement of each other as we’ve reach out to other providers, and worked with parents and child care advocates. We’ve built relationships with legislators and discovered and developed our own leadership skills.

In some ways we’re on the outside looking in. California family child care providers still don’t have the right to bargain with the state over pay and conditions like other workers do. It’s part of a legacy that defines child care, especially in-home child care, as women’s work, as care-giver work, even as black women’s work—not a real job with real rights and real career expectations. Read more

Lacy Barnes, CA

Lacy Barnes_AWTI’ve dedicated my life to education, and I’ve seen first-hand how important it is for teachers – and other public service workers – to be able to come together to negotiate at work.

I’ve been a college instructor since 1992, but my involvement in education doesn’t end at the classroom doors: I am also very involved in my union. As president of the State Center Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1533, I am responsible for representing my fellow faculty members at Reedley College and Fresno City Colleges in the Central Valley. I am also serving as Senior Vice President of CFT.

I believe strongly that our unions help us succeed in the workplace. Our ability to negotiate together has guaranteed better benefits and wages for my colleagues and me while improving educational outcomes for our students. Read more

Kelly Paluso, OR

Kelly Paluso OR 503 Social Worker Photo 300px (1)I work with children in foster care and their families to see help them safely reunite.  In the almost nine years I’ve been working with families, we’ve had staffing cuts and hiring freezes. That meant that social workers like me had more children on our caseloads, more families we are responsible for, and less time to work with them to make sure they were safe.

Together with my co-workers, we’ve pressed the state to hire back caseworkers and the staff that support us. We surveyed foster care specialists about their caseloads, and our union researched other states’ caseload standards. We found that when we counted children rather than cases we had more than we could safely manage. Through our union Oregon has adopted a caseload goal of 15-20 children per caseworker. That helps us keep our kids safer, and allows us to check in on our kids as we are required to by law and by good social work practice. Read more

Karen Williams, OR

Karen Williams_For AWT websiteAfter seven years working as an environmental geologist in the private sector, I went to work at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) because I wanted to have a broader effect on environmental restoration and benefit my community.

Now, as a Water Quality Analyst, I work with local governments and other stakeholders to identify, monitor, and reduce pollution to bodies of water in order to increase their quality for swimming and fishing. I am in charge of assessing and quantifying the amount of pollution that has entered a lake or river, and I measure it over time to track the progress we make in reducing pollution and restoring water quality.

My colleagues and I are passionate about our service. Reducing pollution and improving our public bodies of water benefits the whole community, and provides places where children can learn to swim and families can spend a weekend. My colleagues and I have intentionally made the decision to put our skills and education to use for the benefit of public health and the environment we care about as Oregonians. Read more

Guest Blog: Friedrichs Is Missing Its Warning Label

Lily’s Blackboard (NEA)
By Tina Adams

I know if my kids are hungry, they aren’t learning. I also know who is eating his vegetables, and which kids needs to watch their sugar because of diabetes or other dietary restrictions. From the time the bell rings in the morning to when school lets out in the afternoon, I’m the mom. I care for these kids like my own—and all I want is for them to be happy, healthy and ready to learn. My name is Tina Adams, and I am a school lunch lady in Mansfield, Ohio. Every school day for the past 30 years, I have cooked healthy meals and nutritious treats to feed hundreds of hungry kids. For many of my students, my food is the only food they eat all day. I keep my students’ bellies full so teachers can feed their minds.

After more than three decades, my salary is little more than $20,000 a year. At times, I have had to work two, even three jobs, just to make ends meet.

In fact, I earn so little money that my family falls under the federal poverty level and, ironically, we qualify for food stamps.

Read more

Dovard Howard, CA

DovardHoward1 (2)When you think about your tap water, the word union probably doesn’t come to mind. But in many municipalities across the country, the people making sure we have safe and clean drinking water are public service employees.

I have worked as a Certified Control Systems Technician for a decade, following service with the Army in the Persian Gulf. Many of my coworkers have been here just as long or longer; we take pride in our work and take our responsibility to the community very seriously. That’s why I am a proud member of AFSCME Local 1902. The union makes sure I have the working conditions I need, along with good pay and benefits to support my family. Read more