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.