Meet Our Shop Steward: Terresita P. Rankins

Terresita P. Rankins is a CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward and Family Service Specialist at the Department of Children and Families in Plainfield. Ahead of her retirement after serving as a Steward for 17 years, Terresita shares her experience as a committed union member, and the importance of supporting each other.

Tell us about your work. What do you do? How long have you worked there?

[TR] – I started my career at DYFS in 1997 as FSST in the Plainfield Office. As a Family Service Specialist, I assess families in need of services, investigate abuse and neglect allegations, and develop plans to minimize/eliminate risk to children to promote healthier families.

Why do you think being in a union is important for workers?

[TR] – My role as Shop Steward has helped me to appreciate and better understand the need for unions in the workplace. There is strength in numbers. Our union is a force that fights for our jobs, rights, safety, and equal pay in the workplace.

Do you have any tips for members considering becoming a Shop Steward?

[TR] – My suggestion to anyone interested in becoming a Shop Steward is to ask questions to understand the process. You learn valuable skills. It also gives one the ability to get pertinent information firsthand.  It requires commitment, dedication, and confidentiality. You also have to be approachable and real. You have to be willing to fight. You inherit a very large supportive family!

What are you looking forward to in your retirement? 

[TR] – It has been my honor and pleasure to serve our members and work with so many dedicated, hardworking, and committed people. Thank you for trusting me in this role. I am still writing this chapter, but it will consist of spending time with my family (especially my grandkids), some volunteer work (to be determined) and maybe some international travel.

Meet Our Shop Steward: Marcela Dinoso

Marcela Dinoso is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Hackensack. She assists people with disabilities who are seeking re-entry into the workforce by connecting them with jobs that meet their needs.

Tell us about your work. What do you do? 

[MD] – As a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, I provide vocational counseling for people with various disabilities from learning, physical, mental, substance abuse, as well as deaf and hard of hearing. I assess an individual’s readiness to return to the workforce and find them a viable vocational goal that is suitable for them that is not going to exacerbate their disability.

How long have you been a Shop Steward? 

[MD] – I started in 2017.

What kind of issues do you and your coworkers face on the job? How has being in a union helped to work through them?

[MD] – Dealing with issues through management to gain clarification. Constant monitoring of our facility to ensure a safe work environment for our brothers and sisters. Rallying the rank and file to become more involved in union activities. Providing support during the pandemic and utilizing the technology to keep union members up to date every step of the way.

How do you think being in a union improves working conditions for workers?

[MD] – Unions protect our rights, and that’s very important because some jobs that have not been unionized, workers get taken advantage of, and they treat you as disposable. With a union you are being supported, you have job security. We are stronger as a whole.

What have you learned from your time as a Shop Steward?

[MD] – Advocating for our brothers and sisters, letting them know that we are there for them that their fight is our fight. Gathering information and finding all the facts before jumping into any conclusion and making sure that we tell our brothers and sisters that we got each other’s back and give them our full honesty and sincerity.

Do you have any tips or advice for union members who may be considering becoming a Shop Steward? 

[MD] – Earn your colleagues’ trust and you will be golden. It’s very rewarding to successfully resolve grievances.

Meet Our Shop Steward: Christine Bradshaw

Christine Bradshaw is a CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward and Assistant Head Usher at The NJ Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark. An admirer of the arts, Christine has been a part of NJPAC since 1996 when she started out as a volunteer, and a 1037 Shop Steward since negotiating our first contract in 2007.

Tell us about your work. What do you do?

[CB] – I am an Assistant Head Usher, and my job is to supervise the ushers on my tier. In our work environment, we deal with many patrons of all sorts of demeanors and language barriers at NJPAC. Our job is to greet theatre goers and our co-workers in a pleasant manner, not knowing what kind of day they have had, not knowing if they had traffic or parking issues before entering the building. We must be ready and anticipate to not to add to an already bad day. 

What kind of challenges did you and your colleagues face in the past prior to unionizing, and what challenges do you face today?

[CB] – I started off as a volunteer, but once I became a paid usher the criteria escalated and the conditions in the workplace became more and more demanding. The pay reviews were horrible, for example. The NJPAC organization would share excellent letters from patrons applauding the ushers on how well they were treated and how we made them feel so welcomed, and yet we still wouldn’t get a better review. Reviews generated an increase of no more than twenty-five cents every year. Today, honestly, our challenges are very few. Being in a unionized workplace is a huge factor. Negotiations between our Union and the NJPAC organization has met us on all our issues and concerns.

What have you learned from your time as a Shop Steward?

[CB] – I’m grateful to the negotiating committee past and present: Melanie Daniels, Cynthia Green, Johnnie Paige, Jackie Smith, Carol Webb, George Mero, and myself. Knowing up front neither of us had any experience in this field, we worked together diligently with ushers to build a fair contract that met our concerns on the job.   

What does ‘Solidarity’ mean to you?

[CB] – To me, solidarity means unity to be able to work out our issues and concerns for the best benefits.

What has been your favorite performance?

[CB] – Annie was my best and longest running performance at NJPAC. “The sun will come out tomorrow…” was stuck in our heads for months.