Meet Our Shop Steward: Andres Franco

Andres Franco is an Investigator and a CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward at the Office of Law Guardian. For the past 15 years, Andres has assisted in cases involving the most vulnerable in our community, children subject to child abuse and neglect. Read below to learn more about his work.

Can you tell us about your work?

[AF] – I work at the Office of Law Guardian which is an offshoot of the Office of the Public Defender. Our office primarily represents children who are subjects in child abuse and neglect cases. In essence we help those children have a voice in the court room. 

How do you think the work you do helps communities?

[AF] – The work I do has a direct impact on our community because we assist the most vulnerable which are children in these cases. Many times, we raise issues like childcare, therapy that children may need or medical issues that the parents may have not been aware of prior to our involvement.

How long have you been in this position?

[AF] – I’ve been working for the State of NJ for 15 years. 

How do you think being union improves a workplace culture?

[AF] – I think being union helps improve workplace culture by being inclusive and addressing issues that are particular to each member. Also helps to focus our attention on the things other members may experience which can impact everyone as a whole. 

How many years have you been a CWA 1037 Shop Steward?

[AF] – I have been a shop steward for 7 years now. I started in 2015.

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

[AF] – As a steward I have learned that it is important to speak on things the minute they happen because the sooner you address the issue the better. 

Any tips for members who might be considering becoming a Shop Steward?

[AF] – What I can tell people who want to become a Shop-steward is to do it, you’ll help people who perhaps are too shy to speak up and you can boost morale in your office.

Responsible Collective Negotiations Act is Signed into Law 

On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, the Responsible Collective Negotiations Act (RCNA) was signed into law. The RCNA has been a CWA priority for over 30 years, and represents an historic advancement in the rights of State Workers.

The Responsible Collective Negotiations Act:

  • Allows Unions to Bargain Over More Workplace Issues: State Worker unions can bargain with management over more issues beyond wages and benefits.
  • Ends the Imposition of Contracts: Management can no longer impose their version of a contract when the two sides have reached an impasse.
  • Protects Union Member Confidentiality: Communications between a union member and their elected union leadership or union staff are now legally confidential (similar to an attorney – client privilege).
  • Allows Unions to Charge Non-Members for Arbitration: Non-members may be required to pay the cost of taking their case to arbitration, which costs thousands of dollars per day. This cost is otherwise born by the rest of the employees who pay union dues.

For years, workers have been hurt by policies that prioritize management over employees. It’s gotten worse since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME which further undermined union power. 

The RCNA however, will address some of the inequities that were created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus, and will expand State Workers’ rights to collective bargaining to be more in line with the rights of private sector workers. Thanks to the active organizing and civic participation of our CWA members and allies, workers’ rights will be further protected in the state of New Jersey.

Shop Steward Spotlight: Sandra Watson Rapley

Sandra Watson Rapley is a CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward and Technician at Motor Vehicle Commission in Hazlet. As a Technician, Sandra works with customers and dealers to produce titles and registrations, providing a necessary service to people in New Jersey.

How long have you worked at Motor Vehicle?

[SWR] – I started at Motor Vehicle in July 2011 as a part-time employee. I was hired as a full-time employee in December 2015.

How long have you been a Shop Steward?

[SWR] – I have been a shop steward since January 2019

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

[SWR] – Our current challenge is navigating the Covid-19 rules which seem to change regularly and thus is very confusing for everyone. Our union has been very responsive to our questions and concerns, ensuring that each location was Covid-ready before we returned to work in July 2020. They also helped to ensure that we had only one person at our reception desk because the distance between two people was less than 6 feet. In addition, when there is a staff and management issue the union has been very helpful with providing the guidance and the support needed.

Can you talk to us about the importance of the work our members at Motor Vehicle provide?

[SWR] – As a public employee, we provide necessary services to the community. If we didn’t renew the registrations, for example, people would get tickets.

What have you learned from your time as a Shop Steward, both as a communicator and in the relationship with your coworkers?

[SWR] – I have learned that we should have had a shop steward a long time ago because some of the things our supervisors/manager at the time were doing were not in accordance with the rules. Basically, they were making things up as they went along. My coworkers see me as someone who can help them understand the rules, help them if they have issues with management, policies, and procedures.

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

[SWR] – It’s rewarding. I have learned a lot about policies and procedures. It adds another dimension to my day’s work.

How has being in a union made a difference at the workplace?

[SWR] – Being in a union means we have a voice, we are listened to, and we support each other.