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Shop Steward Spotlight: Zuanette Cabrera

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

[ZC]: I am currently an Agency Services Representative 1 (Billing Specialist) for the New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Office at the Department of Law and Public Safety. Our agency helps victims of crime in their time of need with numerous benefits. I make sure we obtain all the necessary documents from victims and providers so that we can provide the assistance that the applicant is seeking and follow the necessary steps to complete the process. I have been a state employee for a total of 17 years.

What made you become a Shop Steward?

[ZC]: There were a few issues happening at the time which needed addressing, but we did not have a Steward. I had a couple of coworkers ask me to go through the process of becoming one, and I became really interested in it so that we could fix our workplace issues.

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

[ZC]: After years of working for the State, I was not even remotely aware of the many issues and challenges that we faced, but now we have a say and have learned to navigate issues correctly. I am now able to help my fellow coworkers. I learned that our union is our number one advocate, and we should ALWAYS reach out!

Has being in a union helped work through challenges at work?

[ZC]: Being in a union has definitely helped work through the challenges faced at work. Sometimes as an employee we are afraid to speak up for what is right in fear of backlash from the employer, but being in a union gives us the confidence to speak up and fix the issues.

Why do you think so many people are unionizing today?

[ZC]: I believe many people are unionizing because they have realized how unfair the workforce can be, and that we need to come together and make the change, more so during and after the pandemic where many employers turned their backs on employees. I have seen firsthand the fact that unionizing works for the betterment of the employees and everyone involved. THERE IS STRENGTH AND NOISE IN NUMBERS!

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

[ZC]: Go for it! Fight for what is right! You will be helping yourself and your coworkers.