Last month, management at Passaic Board of Social Services arbitrarily changed the Juneteenth Day of Observance for the calendar year 2022 – a few days before workers were set to observe the holiday.
CWA 1037 members mobilized via worksite meetings, emails, grievances, and wore RED to speak out against the administration’s flippant decision which had no regard for workers’ and their families plans. Workers’ collective action forced the Board of Commissioners to respond and vote unanimously in favor of our demands to keep the Juneteenth holiday observance on Monday, June 20, 2022. This win is a reminder that when workers unite collectively as one, the boss is forced to listen. When We Fight, We Win!
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.
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.