Walk in my shoes: Wendy Karkos  – IAMAW Local S6 Bath Iron Works – Sandblaster

Walk in my shoes: Wendy Karkos  – IAMAW Local S6 Bath Iron Works – Sandblaster

In May, it will be a year that I’ve been with Bath Iron Works as a sandblaster. I came in as a general laborer.  It’s an L4 position where you assist other trades.  You learn plasma cutting and torch cutting and grinding.  You assist other trades and you learn a little bit about what each trade does.  It gives you the opportunity to try things out and see what you want to do. It’s a difficult job without a doubt…I’ve always been somebody to challenge myself, that person where GIRLS don’t do that…well oh yea, I’ll show you that they do. That’s been my thing so when the position came up…it seemed like it would be a challenge, something to see if I’d like to do.  Keep up with the boys I guess. I love my job.  I love the crew that I work with, they’re like family.  It’s definitely a young person’s job. I won’t do it forever. It was a lot to learn. A lot of stress at the beginning. There are different levels of sandblasting I suppose but this is massive.  We blast the entire units to get them ready for paint.  So you know you get a three-inch hose, blasting out steel grit sometimes 120/150 pounds of pressure which is enough to blow you right over…which had happened. You learn to do what you must do.  Sometimes you are up on a three- to four-foot aluminum horse when you’re getting ready to blast and it could blow you off. So you learn ways to make sure you’re not blown off.  I had to learn this...
Walk in my shoes –School Bus Driver Renita Smith, AFSCME Local 2250

Walk in my shoes –School Bus Driver Renita Smith, AFSCME Local 2250

Renita Smith, a school bus driver in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and a member of ACE-AFSCME Local 2250, was honored recently by students and school system officials as a hero after she saved 20 children when her bus caught fire September 12. Smith, a 17-year veteran driver in Prince George’s County, acted quickly when she smelled smoke and then saw flames while driving her daily route in the suburban Maryland neighborhood. When asked about the ordeal, Smith said that she realized that calling in to her supervisor wasn’t going to help solve the crisis, so she put the radio down and “got my babies up and in a straight line in aisle. I had them hold hands.” Smith then led all 20 children off the bus and to safety, far away from the smoke and flames. Then, without hesitation, Smith went back onto the bus to make sure no child had been left behind. “There wasn’t a bus attendant with me that day to do the count,” said Smith. “So I knew I had to go back on the bus to make sure I got all my babies.” Smith says she was just doing her job. But Prince George’s County School CEO Kevin Maxwell said, “To get off that bus and to go back again to make sure that everybody was safely off the bus is heroic.” Students that were on the bus that day agreed, calling Smith “our hero,” during an assembly held in her honor. But Smith brushed off the praise. “As I’m driving that bus, they’re my babies,” she said. “I’m their mom until I drop...
Walk in my shoes USW Member Wins National Jefferson Award for Helping Domestic Violence Survivors

Walk in my shoes USW Member Wins National Jefferson Award for Helping Domestic Violence Survivors

A United Steelworkers local union member from Texas was named one of the top volunteers in the nation for leading a project to provide scholarships for survivors of domestic violence to study for family-sustaining employment at union-represented oil refineries. Priscilla Puente, an oil refinery worker and member of USW Local 227 in Pasadena, Texas, on Thursday night won the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s Outstanding Public Service by an Employee honor. The award was announced at the national ceremony in Washington, D.C. Puente leads her local union’s efforts to raise money for scholarships that help woman at The Bridge Over Troubled Water shelter. The Jefferson Award is considered America’s gold seal of public service. “The work of Priscilla Puente and her USW sisters and brothers is life-changing, and we’re so proud that she has received this well-deserved national honor,” said Leo W. Gerard, USW International President. “Priscilla understands that family-supporting employment means economic freedom, and that freedom helps victims of domestic abuse become survivors.” Puente, a member of the union’s Women of Steel and Next Generation activist programs, was among 14 members and retirees honored as 2016 winners of Jefferson Awards as part of the USW Cares program, which encourages and highlights the community service work of our union. She was selected as the USW’s overall Jefferson Awards Foundation Champion volunteer for 2016 and represented the union at the national ceremony, where she was selected out of volunteers from around the nation for the top award. “I hope this honor helps shine a light on the important work of Bridge Over Troubled Water, whose mission is really the same as our...
Walk in my shoes–Meet AFGE’s Mr. 300,000, Matthew McDearmon, AFGE BOP

Walk in my shoes–Meet AFGE’s Mr. 300,000, Matthew McDearmon, AFGE BOP

When Matthew McDearmon sat down at his new employee orientation at the Bureau of Prisons, he wasn’t expecting to become an official in his local union – much less the 300,000th member of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). McDearmon, an Air Force veteran and correctional officer at Administrative U.S. Penitentiary Thomson, knows the power of teamwork and the value of speaking up together. To him, joining the union with his colleagues was just the beginning of making a better workplace for current employees and creating a brighter future for the next generation of public servants. “I think it’s good to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” he said. “You can learn the issues that are going on within the institution and the area. Hopefully you can help solve any disconnects between yourself and the management.” At the orientation, McDearmon heard his coworkers’ plan to make the worksite more safe, and he liked their ideas. Then, he got involved....
Walk in my shoes–Richard Cucarese, Steelworker and USW Local 4889 Rapid Response Coordinator, Fairless Hills, PA

Walk in my shoes–Richard Cucarese, Steelworker and USW Local 4889 Rapid Response Coordinator, Fairless Hills, PA

After a brief stint in college, I worked for a non-union employer which did not offer health insurance, raises, or a pension. There was no security to be had, whatsoever. Looking for more stability, I applied for a job at the United States Steel, Fairless Works, and received my first taste of the union experience. The most I’d understood about unions was conveyed by certain members of my family, and theirs was not a positive reaction. Instead of the “lazy, overpaid, unskilled workforce” that was articulated by them and others in my surrounding area, I found a very skilled and educated workforce. They were a hard-working group and very dedicated to producing top quality steel. I was also very impressed when they spoke about their Collective Bargaining achievements at the Local and International level in the areas of safety, pensions and benefits for their members and their families. The members of Local 4889 were very involved in the community, and very informed with the political issues that affected our area. Unfortunately, during the turbulent times of the 1980’s, when many steel plants were crippled by the illicit dumping of foreign steel on our shores, thousands of our brothers and sisters were forced out of work. The majority of our plant was shuttered and many, including myself had to find work elsewhere. For over ten years, elsewhere meant very inferior paying jobs with no benefits, no pensions or 401K plans for their workforce. It also meant dealing with taskmaster bosses who had no regard for the health, welfare, or safety of their workers. In 2005, my wife lost her job...

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