\ I feel that becoming a leader in my union is vital to my livelihood

I feel that becoming a leader in my union is vital to my livelihood

Kim Akins and Sherri Nickerson speaking at the January 27 Leadership Conference in Chicago.

Kim Akins and Sherry Nickerson speaking at the January 27 Leadership Conference in Chicago.

My name is Kim Akins and I have been active in my union since 2010. I am a Special Education Classroom Assistant at Phillip Murray Language Academy in Chicago. When I was a little girl, my father would take me to his union meetings and it was there that I was first educated on the value of a union. I was exposed to the union environment at a young age and learned early that without the union we would be put at a disadvantage. This past year I decided to become a steward thanks in part to the encouragement of my rep and coworker.

I became a steward because I felt the need to be more involved with the union. I feel that becoming a leader in my union is vital to my livelihood. My reps walked me through the process and felt that I would be a good voice in my workplace. They probably saw my bubbly personality, my thoroughness, and my assertiveness as good for a leadership role. It wasn’t a bumpy ride becoming a steward because I went through the process together with another coworker. It was like I had a buddy. She was almost ready to retire, but I convinced her to go through the training of stewardship because it’s never too late to be a voice in your workplace.

I know some people aren’t well informed on the benefits of having a union job. If I could speak to some of these people, I would encourage them to get more connected to their union because they’re paying dues and we should all know what's happening with our union. You have a sisterhood and brotherhood in this organization. If and when you are put in a situation when you have some type of issue in your workplace, you are not alone in facing it. You are stronger in numbers rather than trying to be a solo act and think that you can work a problem out alone. A closed mouth is never fed.

I know some people aren’t well informed on the benefits of having a union job. If I could speak to some of these people, I would encourage them to get more connected to their union because they’re paying dues and we should all know what’s happening with our union. You have a sisterhood and brotherhood in this organization. If and when you are put in a situation when you have some type of issue in your workplace, you are not alone in facing it. You are stronger in numbers rather than trying to be a solo act and think that you can work a problem out alone. A closed mouth is never fed.

As a member and as a leader I have been able to sign up all my coworkers as Local 73 members in my school. I was also able to sign up all the members of the park district that is connected to my school. I felt empowered in terms of the unity, I felt that we were standing strong together. We were no longer disconnected and we realized we had power in our workplace. We have not had any major issues at work and I think that’s a good thing. I have a very good rapport with my principal. He not only listens, he hears me. If there is a request or concern I have been fortunate to have a superior person that I am connected to. I do think this is in large part because of my union and the workplace peace it helps maintain.

There are many people trying to disrupt this peace, people like Rauner. I dare people like him to think it is okay to institutionalize me in a sort of slavery. I dare them to think that it’s okay to take my pension, health insurance, my livelihood and job security. They can’t. I won’t let them.

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