Nominations are open for the State employee representative on the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) Board of Trustees. State Workers have an opportunity to nominate our CWA Union Brother, Tom Bruno for re-election to the PERS Board of Trustees.
Tom Bruno has been fighting for public worker pension security as Chairman of the PERS Board of Trustees since 2007. He filed a first-ever lawsuit against Governor Chris Christie to restore payments to the fund on behalf of public workers. He successfully demanded to decrease the amount of pension funds allocated to high-risk hedge fund investments – lowering fees and keeping more of your money in the pension system. Recently, he mounted a campaign to stop Senator Sweeney’s attempt to destabilize the PERS.
Tom was an employee for the Department of Human Services at the Division of Developmental Disabilities for 35 years. A member of CWA since 1982, he was an organizer and staff representative and later became the President of CWA’s Hunterdon Development Center Branch. He is an author of books concerning privatization and worked with legislators to write the only anti-privatization bill to be signed into law in NJ.
On December 3rd, childcare workers at La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark gathered to deliver petitions to management demanding their rights to breaks be respected. Workers have been unable to take their lunch breaks, even foregoing restrooms breaks due to a staffing shortage at La Casa.
“We have a big problem. Today we were desperate to go to the restroom, but we couldn’t because each of us are alone with 14 children, and we can’t take a break,” said Diocelin Velazquez, a teacher at La Casa. “It’s a situation that we need to resolve. We need more staff. The quality of our teaching is being affected.”
Childcare providers have been enduring long days at work without relief for weeks; forced to take on roles that are not in their job description, including cleaning the classrooms, and even the restrooms due to La Casa’s refusal to hire more workers. “The hygiene is so poor because we need more maintenance workers. We teachers are not just doing our work of teaching, we are doing cleaning work. We are cleaning the floors, the toys because we do not want to receive the kids in these conditions. This does not allow us the time to give them the quality of education that we have been known for at La Casa de Don Pedro,” Azucena Delgado, a teacher at La Casa explained.
CWA Local 1037 members along with organizing partner NJ Communities United mobilized to deliver the petition in person to La Casa’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Rosario. When workers arrived at the La Casa worksite on 75 Park Avenue, they were informed that Rosario was not in the office, and were therefore turned away. Nevertheless, these workers were undeterred in their appeal to have their rights to breaks respected, and walked to hand in their 37 petition signatures to a manager in another office. Workers chanted in unison, “When We Fight, We Win!”
Zoila Irizarry is a Teacher and a CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward at La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark. Zoila has worked as a teacher at La Casa for 16 years educating young children of working families in the community.
Tell us about your job and what you do?
[ZI] – I am a teacher at La Casa de Don Pedro, and I work with 4-year-old children of which 99% of them are Hispanic. Spanish is their mother tongue, and I am very proud to be able to speak Spanish and be able to communicate with them and with their families.
How many years have you worked there?
[ZI] – I have worked at La Casa de Don Pedro for 16 years. I started out as a volunteer, then worked as a Flotter, and later as a Teacher’s Assistant while I did my P3 studies at the Montclair State University. I am currently working as a teacher for the past 13 years.
The childcare industry is undervalued and underinvested, but we know care is valuable. How do you think childcare benefits families and communities?
[ZI] – The work of teaching is definitely undervalued by members of the State and the Education Authorities, even by parents who think our job is only to babysit. But really, the work of a teacher is a job with utmost responsibility, since we teachers are assisting in the child’s emotional, physical and cognitive development for their future prosperity.
What do you like about your work?
[MB] – I really like working with children. I like to observe how they develop gradually in each area, and I like using strategies to help children to socialize, share, and respect their teachers and classmates in the classroom.
What kind of challenges do you and your colleagues face on the job? How has staying united and being in a Union helped to work through them?
[ZI] – We really have faced many challenges such as the fear of demanding our rights; such as taking our sick days, our personal days, which we couldn’t take even when we really needed them, only when those in charge approved them. We didn’t even have the right to take days off before or after a vacation day, we couldn’t place any complaints out of the fear of being fired. We had to do work that was not in our job description such as cleaning the classrooms, even the bathrooms. Honestly belonging to a Union has helped me feel secure in my job, especially now that I’ve learned to DEMAND and CLAIM my rights.
What have you learned during your time as a Shop Steward?
[ZI] – It’s a great experience as it is a learning experience of all things labor. I’ve also learned to motivate my colleagues in not being afraid as we are only asking for them to respect our rights because we are human beings, and we have a voice and a vote.
Do you have any advice for union members who may be considering becoming a Shop Steward?
[ZI] – I definitely think it’s a great experience, a learning experience, but I think those considering becoming a Shop Steward should have a conviction to help, support, and motivate their colleagues to always be united so to achieve the objectives and the rights that are ours.
Zoila Irizarry es maestra y delegada sindical local 1037 de CWA en La Casa de Don Pedro en Newark. Zoila ha trabajado como maestra en La Casa durante 16 años educando a niños pequeños de familias trabajadoras en la comunidad.
¿Cuéntanos sobre su trabajo? Que hace?
Yo soy una maestra de un salon de clases en la Casa de Don Pedro de la 75 Park Av, y trabajo con ninos de 4 anos, el 99% de ellos son ninos Hispanos, esta es su lengua materna, me siento muy orgullosa de hablar Espanol para poderme comunicar con ellos al inicio del ano escolar, y especialmente con los padres de familia.
¿Cuantos años tiene trabajando ahí?
Trabajo en la Casa de Don Pedro por 16 anos, empece como voluntaria, luego trabaje como Flotter, y luego como asistente de maestra mientras hacia mi programa de P3 en la Universidad de Montclair, y hace 13 anos trabajo como maestra de esta institucion.
¿La industria del cuidado infantil está menospreciada, pero sabemos que la atención que prestan las provedoras es valiosa. ¿Cómo cree que el cuidado infantil beneficia a las familias y las comunidades?
Definitivamente el trabajo de maestra es menospresiado por miembros del Estado y Autoridades Educativas, incluso por padres de familia que piensas que nuestro trabajo es solo cuidar a los ninos. Pero realmente el trabajo de maestro es uno de los trabajos con mas responsabilidad que cualquier otro, ya que los maestros estamos ayudando en el desarrollo en muchas areas importantes para un futuro prospero de los ninos tal como es el Area Emocional, el Area Fisica, el Area Cognitiva.
¿Qué le gusta de sutrabajo?
Realmente me gusta trabajar mucho con ninos, me gusta observar como ellos empiezan y como paulatinamente ellos van desarrollandoce en cada una de las Areas y tambien me gusta utilizer muchas estrategias para ayudar a los ninos a Socializar, compartir, y respetar a las maestras y sus companeros de clase.
¿Qué tipo de problemas enfrentan usted y sus colegas en el trabajo? ¿Cómo les ha ayudado mantenerse unidas y estar en un sindical?
Realmente hemos enfrentado muchos problemas, como el temor a exigir nuestros derechos; como tomar nustros dias de enfermedad, nuestros dias personales, los cuales no los podiamos tomar cuando realmente los necesitavamos, sino cuando las autoridades lo aprueven, incluso no teneiamos el derecho a tomarnos dias antes o despues de un dia de vacaciones, tambien no podiamos hacer reclamos de ninguna clase por el temor a ser despedidas, teniamos que hacer trabajos que no estan dentro de nuestra descripcion de trabajo como la limpieza de los salones inclusive de los banos. Realmente pertenecer a una Union me ha ayudado a sentirme mas segura en mi trabajo, especialmente he aprendido que debo EXIGIR y RECLAMAR mis derechos.
¿Qué has aprendido durante tu tiempo como delegado sindical?
Es una gran experiencia ya que es un gran aprendizaje en todo el campo laboral, tambien he aprendido a motivar a mis companeras de que no debemos tener temor que solo estamos pidiendo que se respeten nuestros derechos porque somos seres humanos y detemos voz y voto.
¿Tiene algún consejo para los miembros que estan pensando convertirse en delegados sindicales?
Definitivamente pienso que es una gran experiencia, es un gran aprendizaje, pero se debe tener la conviccion de ayudar, apoyar, compartir y motivar a sus companeros de estar siempre unidos para alcanzar los objetivos y lograr los derechos que nos corresponden.