I come from a black blue-collar union family and many were leaders in their union. These jobs changed people’s lives and gave us a better standard of living. That is why when I got a job at Yale back in 1999, I knew I had to become a leader in Local 34. But, when I joined Local 34’s Executive Board I saw that there were very few black people in the room.
People of color have unique problems, we are held to a higher standard in the workplace, and are often reluctant to bring up problems because of this additional scrutiny. Many leaders did not understand this problem, and for a while, I felt like I was the lone voice for black and brown people in our union. This had to change, and so I worked with Barbara Vereen to push more people of color to become leaders in our union.
Subsequently, our leadership has changed dramatically. We are more diverse. The new generation brings up issues quickly and is willing to fight for members easily. They know, just like I do, that we are all the union. We must take ownership of it and we are only as strong as our weakest members, so we must make sure all of our members are strong.