I am a School Community Health Nurse in Montgomery County, Maryland. The County Department of Health and Human Services, not the school system, employs and funds all School Nurses in my county.
As a school nurse, I deal with the usual cuts, scrapes and upset stomachs in schools, but I also deal with very challenging health issues as well. Childhood asthmatics, insulin-dependent diabetics, and a number of other medically fragile students rely on me and my colleagues in our schools, and there are increasingly fewer of us to help.
Each School Community Health Nurse is assigned one to three schools with an unlicensed Health Room Technician in each school. It’s a dangerous situation for our students. We’ve been fighting year-after-year to get the county to fund more nurses.
As a shop steward, I recently testified to the County Council about our need for more nurses, and they finally agreed to grant emergency funding to add a few more nurses. They didn’t give us the number we need, but it’s a start. I’m hoping once they’re hired, they stay.
My union has empowered me to stand up for myself and my coworkers. We can demand better thanks to the union and our collective voices. ■
I am a 20-year veteran letter carrier in St. Paul, Minnesota. I joined the union immediately when I started with the U.S. Postal Service, not because I knew a lot about the National Association of Letter Carriers, but because I grew up in a union household. I knew if you have a union at your workplace, you join.
I became really involved in the union around 2006, when my Branch at the time in Minneapolis had their steward step down. A good friend of mine came to me and asked if I would like to become a steward. I was already fighting for women’s rights in the workplace, so this gave me an opportunity to get more involved. I started attending meetings and regional trainings and I am now the Recording Financial Secretary at Branch 28, as well as an alternate steward for my station and a regional Minnesota state organizer. I also helped NALC and USPS on a new vehicle project. I had the opportunity to travel and give feedback on different designs.
I love my job as a letter carrier. I get to spend time outside and see people every day. But this work takes a toll on your body. I have worked both a walking route and a vehicle route and they both have their pros and cons. You are twisting and turning your body and as you age, the work gets harder. A few years back, I was diagnosed with Plantar fasciitis which made it difficult for me to work. Because of this I had a hard time being on my feet all day. Because of my benefits, I was able to visit a doctor and eventually I was given a guaranteed modified schedule. If it weren’t for my union, I would not have been able to continue to work in a job that I love.
A lot of people think the USPS is unnecessary, but my route tells me differently. I visit a lot of businesses daily. They are still sending and receiving a lot of mail. The USPS is vital to our nation. And my union is fighting every day to ensure our citizens continue to have this vital service. ■
I have been an associate at Macy’s in Herald Square for going on eight years now. I started out in the Bedding Department on the 6th floor and was later promoted to the Home and Electric Department on the 8th floor. Macy’s Herald Square is the flagship of the Macy’s department store chain; it is located in Herald Square in Manhattan, NY. The store covers an entire city block, with more than two million square feet of retail space, it’s one of the largest stores in the world. My union, RWDSU Local 1-S represents nearly 4,000 active employees in Herald Square and at the Queens, Parkchester and White Plains Stores.
I have been a Shop Steward for about four years, helping the employees on my floor when they have issues with everything from scheduling to handling conflicts on the floor. I’ve worked non-union before. What I have found in a unionized store is that we have a voice on the job. In a busy department store like Macy’s, there are a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements. But, because of the union, workers know they are protected against unreasonable customer complaints. I’ve helped fellow members understand that they don’t have to tolerate abusive treatment to keep their jobs, because the union has their back. One of the main issues I see as a steward is scheduling. We have provisions in our contract with Macy’s that requires fair and set scheduling, but we see management violate that a lot. When that happens, we file a grievance on behalf of the employee. RWDSU Local 1-S has negotiated a fair contract, it is up to me and the other shop stewards to help enforce it. Our contract has required Macy’s to provide paid sick leave since before it was mandatory in New York State. I’ve seen Macy’s management try to avoid allowing employees to take their leave. And, I’ve been able to help those employees file grievances so they can receive the time off they are entitled to.
Being a union shop steward, for me, is like standing up to the classroom bully. I get to let them know that we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. I like my job, and I like being able to help customers who come in to the store, but it makes me feel great to be able to help my coworkers.■
Skylar Roush, Chula Vista, CA Charter School Teacher, CTA Sweetwater Union High School District
As a Chula Vista, Calif., charter high school teacher, I wake up every morning and kiss my wife goodbye for the day. She is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipient and is in the process of getting her teaching credentials. Even though we are married, we don’t know if she’ll be able to stay in the only country she’s ever known.
I drive to the school, two miles from the border with Mexico, many of my students wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. to wait in the border line to come to school in the USA. I walk into my classroom where students are always already there waiting, eating their school breakfast. These are the ones for whom the border crossing was quicker than usual that day, so they arrive at the school well before the day is set to begin.
We are a public charter that takes in the high school students from across the vast Sweetwater Union school district that are not on track to graduate. Most of our students are English Language Learners (ELL) who have grown up on both sides of the border. They are American citizens, children of families too poor to afford to live in California’s skyrocketing housing market, or whose families don’t have the documentation necessary to live and work in the U.S.
We also take in many homeless students, and students who are transitioning out of juvenile detention supervision. It is hard work serving as teacher, mentor, coach, therapist, and college counselor all in one day. But, it is important, necessary work that sustains me and gives me purpose.
For this work however, I am paid $55,000 per year, though I would make $68,000 if I taught at any of the traditional public schools in our same district.
Our students are Sweetwater Union High School District students, but we are not paid like Sweetwater Union High School District teachers.
In October of 2015, my colleagues unionized our charter school with the California Teachers’ Association (CTA), and have been working with organizers from the union to sign our first contract ever since. We have faced numerous delay tactics. We no longer have a General Ed English teacher or an English Language Development (ELD) teacher. We have gone semesters with no science or math teachers, and years with no Spanish teacher. All in a school that is 95 percent ELL and nearly 100 percent of our students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
We are getting to the point where walking out is becoming a real point of discussion. After two and a half years of delays, my colleagues and I wonder if that is the only way.
Charter schools should exist to provide additional paths to success for students, not to punish the teachers who sign up to serve the most vulnerable. We are inspired by our union brothers and sisters walking out of their classrooms all across the country, and we are proud of the difficult fights they have made winnable. Charter schools MUST be unionized, or our teachers will be underpaid and under-supported, and our students, those with the most need of stable and quality educators, will be the ones that continue to suffer.
Con union se vive mejor!
I am a second-year apprentice with the Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 in Dayton, OH. Before becoming an apprentice, I served in the 101st Airborne unit in the U.S. Army. I was honorably discharged after being injured during a training exercise.
After leaving the Army, I decided to take advantage of my GI Bill by enrolling in the Hobart Institute of Welding in Troy, OH. After completing my certifications, I went to work for a non-union company for about two years. During this time, I found that a lot of the senior employees were unwilling to teach the new workers on the job. There seemed to be a lot of fear that if they did, they might lose their job to a younger worker.
After a couple of years on the job, a friend of the family told me about the union. I was intrigued and looked in to how to join. In 2015, I applied to the Local 24 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, and I believe that it was the best decision I ever made.
The atmosphere on the job, and in the classroom, is all about building you up and teaching you. The union has given me a new family in my coworkers and those I train with. It has helped build my self-esteem, and given me more financial and career stability. I love my job at Reliable Electrical Mechanical Services, I get to learn something new almost daily. I don’t think I would be doing as well if I had stayed in the private industry.
As a veteran, moving into the union trades is a great option. So many people with military backgrounds can find the regimen and comradery they crave in the brotherhood of the union building trades.
Amy Rozny, UFCW Local 881
I am a UFCW Local 881 member and I have been a pharmacy technician for 8 months at Jewel Osco #3296 in Chicago, IL. I started in high school. I applied and did a training course through Jewel Osco to become certified to become a pharmacy tech.
I love my job. I get to work with people every day and you always learn something new.
My advice to anyone who wants to become a pharmacy tech is to ask a lot of questions. No question is a dumb question. Before here, I worked at a pet store, because I’m an animal lover, and a garden center, because I love plants. When I started, I didn’t know anything about pharmacy. You learn through asking questions.