Ellen Cupo

Department: Womens, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Position: Senior Administrative Assistant

My parents are founding members of Local 34, and so this union has always been a part of my life. But until I became a member in 2015, I didn’t fully understand the power and responsibilities of being a union leader. I learned to fight for respect in the workplace as a union steward. In 2017, I was called to help a worker in the Divinity School who was being threatened with discipline. It did not take long to understand that her boss was setting her up to fail by changing timelines on her assignments for months. To make matters worse, he would berate and yell at her at her desk. Fellow union members and other staff were intimidated to even walk past her in the hallway.

Our organizing committee in the Divinity School snapped into action, and we began to meet with workers across the Divinity Quad, sharing this member’s story and asking them to support her. We organized and filed a grievance against the boss. It took three grievance hearings, hundreds of conversations, and a lot of trust. With the support of the majority of the
department, we won the fight. After many months, the boss was quietly asked to leave. My worker was able to retire with dignity in 2021. My union background was an important foundation, but my experience in the Divinity School gave me a clear understanding of what it means to demand respect at work and what it takes to organize this union.