Meet Our Shop Steward: Mac Biggers

Mac Biggers is a Technological Service Specialist and a CWA 1037 Shop Steward at the NJ Commission for the Blind & Visually Impaired. As a specialist for the past six years, Biggers has focused on providing technology services to blind students and their educational staff.

Can you explain to us what your job entails? 

[MB] – I evaluate students to determine what technology they need so that they can compete with their sighted peers. If I decide that technology is necessary for a student, I train them and the educational staff on the product and how to use it. A lot of the time, we use everyday technology that has built-in accessibility features. Some items or iPads and laptops with magnification or speech features allow them to access everything their sighted peer can. I like the fact that I get to share my love of technology and my life experience of going blind and losing my eyesight as a kid. By using these insights, I also am able to help educate schools on how to best work with kids who are blind. 

How long have you been a Shop Steward? 

[MB] – Officially for three years. Although I have always been known as a troublemaker and making sure my thoughts are heard. 

What kind of challenges do you and your coworkers face on the job? How do you overcome them?

[MB] – I would have to say that the biggest challenge that we have in the workplace is people not understanding what we do or even why we do things the way we do. We overcome this by sitting down and educating people on what and why we follow specific procedures. 

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

[MB] – The thing that I feel I have learned the most is the need just to listen. Not everything is an issue sometimes, people just need a wall to rebound off of. When it comes to relationships, you need to be able to respect everyone, though, no matter how much you agree or disagree. Being that neutral party and helping people talk through what is going on usually solves most problems. 

You are involved in the community. Can you tell us a bit more about that? 

[MB] – As a blind individual, I am very active in the blindness community. I am a president for one of the local chapters of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NFB is the largest advocacy organization with 50,000 members. I feel this is because it is all in our name, the National Federation of the Blind, not for the Blind. We are a collective movement helping people with the same issues. I have grown up having to self-advocate and having parents tell me that I can do whatever I want. Some of these include running the 2002 Para Olympic torch, participating in sports for the blind on a national level, and traveling coast to coast advocating for the blind. 

What made you get involved? 

[MB] – I think my involvement started when I was young. I was a shy kid growing up, but as it got harder and harder to see, my parents could advocate for me. Soon I realized that my parents weren’t always going to be there, and in order to survive in the sighted world, I needed to speak up. The first time I remember putting my foot down and advocating was in elementary school when one of my teachers didn’t want anything to do with me and didn’t want to help accommodate anything. My mom said, let’s transfer you into the other class. I told my mom no if I transfer and let her win, I don’t help myself or anyone else after me. Well, let me tell you that elementary school really got to know me. I think I was also the first blind kid who advocated to ride his bike to school and won the school district’s argument. 

Do you have any pearls of wisdom for union members who may be considering becoming a Shop Steward? 

[MB] – The most important words that I have are to be passionate and humble in all that you do. Be able to put your thoughts and feelings aside and try to put yourself in the shoes of others. 

Horizon Health Webinars for State Workers: November Schedule

State workers in the State Health Benefits plan have access to free health webinars from Horizon. The November webinar sessions will cover topics about protecting yourself against winter illnesses as well as daily practices for preventing and easing health issues. Click on the title to register. Space
is limited.

Managing Diabetes and Prediabetes, Wednesday, November 10, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
According to the American Diabetes Association, over 30 million Americans are living with diabetes and millions more are considered prediabetic. With numbers of this magnitude, chances are you or someone you love has been directly impacted by the disease. Join us this National Diabetes Awareness Month to discuss this important epidemic.

Family Well-Being, Tuesday, November 16, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
In this webinar, we discuss building better family meals by educating the group on proper nutrients, using the My Plate method, and staying on track. We will also teach simple methods to get fit as a family by exploring exercising and defining exercise goals, as well as understanding how sleep can drive overall health success.

Biometrics: Know Your Numbers, Monday, November 22, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
In this course you will learn to understand what biometric values mean, learn to appreciate their importance, and realize how lifestyle habits may affect results.

Don’t Forget Your Social Life! Monday, November 29, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Are you working your life away by working six days a week or twelve hours a day? Don’t forget that it’s important to close that mental office “door,” kick back for some leisure and fun, and remember that stress reduction activities are an essential part of life. Make time for your favorite hobbies as well as the people who are important to you. Learn more in this course!

For a list of recorded webinars, please visit https://www.horizonblue.com/shbp/njwell/njwell-webinars.

Victory! CWA 1037 Wins Bargaining Agreement Over Healthcare with Leaguers

CWA 1037 reached an agreement with The Leaguers this week that maintained the same level of benefits coverage without passing on increases in costs to workers. In August, Leaguers management had announced a 6.5% increase in health insurance premiums and planned to pass 100% of the cost onto the backs of workers, foregoing any additional employer contributions.

These healthcare hikes would have harmed workers who are already struggling with the new health insurance changes. It would have added to the destabilization of childcare available to working-class communities and communities of color. Organizers mobilized quickly, reaching out to stewards and members at various worksites to take action and push against the proposal.

CWA 1037 in partnership with NJ Communities United and the Workers in Early Childhood Education Action Network held a direct-action training meeting, distributed flyers, and circulated a petition that opposed increases in health care costs. The organizing proved successful as the meeting had record attendance and petitions were signed by a vast majority of the workers. Leaguers were prepared to deliver the petitions to management, but their voices were heard in time! On Wednesday, October 21, Leaguers management agreed to pay the full cost of the increase. This agreement also resolved a previous grievance on healthcare. This is a win for childcare workers.