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 Marcus Eubanks, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370 Flint, Michigan

Walk in my shoes Marcus Eubanks, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370 Flint, Michigan

I was in my daughter’s kindergarten class a couple of years ago and I was talking to another parent at the school who happened to be an electrician and an IBEW member. He was telling me about the benefits of being a union member. He knew I was a welder and suggested I look into apprenticeship at UA. Joining the UA as an apprentice meant that I would have to take a pay cut at first. That was a scary prospect. I have six kids, and I am the only breadwinner in the family. I had to do some soul searching but in the end, when the door opened for this opportunity, I jumped through. As a second year apprentice, I work for Walter E. William, a mechanical services contractor and I attend school in the evenings to hone my skills. I know being a union plumber will provide me and my family better opportunities in the future. Beyond work, I have gotten the chance to use my skills and training to help others in my community. You see, I live in Flint, Michigan, where city officials admitted in October that our water contained unsafe lead levels that could make people sick. When the news first broke, I heard that the city was going to train some folks to go out and perform filter installations. Instead, with one phone call, UA Local 370 had almost 400 union plumbers volunteer to help. I’m one of them. Shoulder-to-shoulder, house-by-house we have installed filters, and in some cases faucets, in homes across Flint. And, in every house we visit, we also check...
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...
WALK IN MY SHOES–Brian Jerlin, UA Local 376, Norfolk, Virginia

WALK IN MY SHOES–Brian Jerlin, UA Local 376, Norfolk, Virginia

Union Brother since 2005, Brian Jerlin fondly remembers being selected at age 17 to begin apprenticeship in a new program called Public Works Center (now Naval Facility Engineering Mid-Atlantic). With a desire to excel and motivation to learn, Brian was the first Pipefitter to finish this state wide program. Brian shared very matter-of-factly that as a youngster, he was hot tempered, a fighter and loved a challenge. He smiled  as he thanked his mentor, Brother Steve Newsom for his wisdom, patience and guidance. Brian stated that his mentor took a sincere interest in his aspirations. Brian wants those currently in apprenticeship programs to know that hard work pays off. “Always show up on time with a willingness to learn. Treat each other with respect. Be committed to do the work. Set goals. Encourage each other. Always remember that every problem has a solution. Be willing to search for the knowledge.” Brian continued, “our union brothers and sisters learn by doing – together.” In 2014, Brian was elected President of United Association (UA) Local 376 in Norfolk, Virginia. Brian stated that in addition to the duties and responsibilities that come with being a Union President, he loves working side by side with his brothers and sisters. “That’s how you get to know each other.” Brian stressed that as President of Local 376, he trusts his representatives. “From the Steward on up – each union member has a voice – use it. Your opinion matters. Show up to the meetings and immerse yourself in your local union.” Through his leadership, Brian stated, “we identify and address concerns before they become issues.” Even...

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