If this is what stewards do, then I can be a steward

My name is Renita Spencer and I have been a union steward for 15 years. I have always been a very vocal person, especially when it comes to defending myself in the workplace.

My name is Renita Spencer and I have been a union steward for 15 years. I have always been a very vocal person, especially when it comes to defending myself in the workplace.

I used to not have many problems at my job but that all changed when management changed. After nearly 20 years at my job as a parking enforcement aide with the City of Chicago, I noticed myself being passed over for promotions for people with less seniority. When supervisors would take off work, I would often have to take over their duties, but I was never promoted for it.

I was being pulled into disciplinary meetings that I knew I did not deserve to be in. I knew this wasn’t right, so I spoke up but I didn’t have the right knowledge to defend myself to supervisors until I started Local 73’s union steward training.

I never knew anything about a union until I started this job. For years I wasn’t sure I needed the union until management began singling me out and I was up for an unfair 15 day suspension. I worked with my union representatives and we took action. The work we did together got my suspension significantly shortened. By working with the reps, I realized that I could do this work too. It’s what I had been trying to do for myself for years. If I became a steward, I could defend myself and other people at my workplace. I could even help other people become a steward, like Al.

Renita Spencer and Al Johnson, Local 73 Stewards

Renita Spencer and Al Johnson, Local 73 Stewards.

My name is Al Johnson and I came to the city to make this my career, working for Chicago. I love my job and I work hard every day. As time went on I saw how much my work and my co-worker’s work was not being appreciated. Like Renita said, disciplinary hearings were always happening and we almost couldn’t help each other. I started getting into a lot of trouble that I thought was unfair, so I started speaking up, but that just got me into more trouble. The worst trouble I got was when I was up for a five day suspension. I continued to speak up for myself in the hearing and I actually won my arguments.

I thought: “Well, if this is what stewards do, then I can be a steward.” Co-workers encouraged me to run for the steward position and Renita helped answer a lot of my questions about being a steward. I’ve been a union steward for six years now.

I am the union. My coworkers are the union. The union saved me from losing my job and I know that.

I am the union. My coworkers are the union. The union saved me from losing my job and I know that.

I’m currently taking time off work right now to help us build a stronger union. I know I need my job secured and I want to do my part to secure all of my union brothers and sisters’ jobs. We need to stand together. I’m signing people up on new membership cards and educating them about Janus. The U.S. Supreme Court case is putting our job security in danger and that’s bad for all of us.

When I talk to another worker I tell them, “if you love your job and your pension and your insurance then support our union. If you don’t love us, then step away.”

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