My name is Mary Nowicki and I am a proud member of CWA Local 1168.
I learned my work ethic from my parents and family. My grandfather worked at Bethlehem Steel and was part of the United Steel Workers and my father is a tractor-trailer driver for Teamsters 449.
I studied at Medaille College in the undergrad program and majored in Veterinary Technology; graduated with an associate degree. I then had to sit for my licensing exam, called the (VTNE) Veterinary Technology National Exam.
My first job as a Veterinary Technician was at a small practice. They showed me how to become a technician. I learned how place intravenous catheters, how to take x-rays, and how to educate clients. But I wanted to learn more. I wanted to work at the place I had idolized, Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center.
I learned so much more when coming to work at OPVMC. I learned how to place feeding tubes, give chemotherapy, working underneath well-known veterinary surgeons. I loved the fast-paced emergency atmosphere. That’s when your skills really come out as a Veterinary Technician. And I cannot forget caring for the critically ill hospitalized patients, nurturing those who have a severe illness. Its always very satisfying when a patient hadn’t eaten in days and they take their first bite of food and you celebrate with your co-workers. As hard as my career is, it’s about those patients that get to go home to their families because of care like mine.
After working at OPVMC for two years, I had quickly learned that many of the technicians who trained me as a new hires were leaving because of our working conditions and how unhappy they were. I was invited to an organizing meeting with a few of my co-workers which was held by CWA to get a union into our veterinary hospital.
After meeting with CWA, it was just what we needed. We learned that we could make a change. A say in our workplace, better working conditions, and to be more of an advocate for our patients. It was very strategic from the beginning, but with the guidance from the organizers from CWA, we were successful in our election. July 2022, we were unionized, the sixth unionized veterinary practice in the United States, first privately owned and first in the Western New York area.
After winning our election, I was nominated to be part of the bargaining committee representing my co-workers. I was also an active steward. On November 8th, bargaining started. During this entire process, I learned so much and has been eye opening for me how to bargain with your employer for a first contract.
On February 24th, I was fired for my union activity and have since learned what it feels like to be fired. When there is hurt to one, there is hurt to all. CWA has truly shown me what it feels like to be part of the union family by hiring me on and making me whole. I will continue to fight the good fight for all still working there to gain a fair contract they rightfully deserve. Hoping OPVMC will soon come to terms in realizing their employees want and need a contract like the one we are fighting for.