MY BIOGRAPHY, Prepared for Unite Here, Local 25 (hotel and restaurant workers), with an emphasis on labor oriented aspects of my life experiences.
I was born into a labor activist family in 1938. My great grandfather was a founding member of the first British Carpenter's Union. He was a ships joiner. His son, my grandfather, worked extensively with Eleanor Roosevelt, to develop employment projects for out of work (starving) artists in the 1930s. My mother's father was blacklisted from his job forever as a ship's engineer for refusing to cross a picket line in the port of New York (probably Masters, Mates and Seaman) around 1920. My father was a member and usually President, Vice-President or Treasurer of his local of Insurance Workers in NJ starting about 1945 for around 40 years. He was on the NY Port Council. He spent many hours with union activity (management was trying to destroy his union), instead of selling insurance, so we were rather poor.
I vividly remember him coming home very upset from a union convention in Atlantic City when I was around 10. He was pacing around the kitchen saying, “We went to our hotel and they wouldn't let our two Negro delegates stay there. I wanted us to go across the street where the hotel would take ALL of us, but the guys wouldn't do it. THEY CALL THEMSELVES TRADE UNIONISTS. SHAME ON THEM!!!.” My mother was also a building representative in NJ with the National Education Association.
At age 23 I married. My husband had been attending American University under a scholarship to study International Labor Relations provided through his union, Intl. Union of Railway and Steamship Clerks. He worked for a time as an escort to various international labor union officials visiting major rail and shipping centers in the US. One was the head of South Africa's equivalent of the AFL-CIO, another was the head of the Brazilian Transport Workers Union. He also spent 3 months in Brazil and 1 month in Peru on a fact finding mission studying conditions of the transport unions of those countries. I helped him to edit and write the reports he had to prepare for each of those activities--a valuable learning experience. He subsequently became a DC teacher and helped start the DC Teacher's Union. He helped write the first two union contracts, and was Vice President for High Schools and/or Junior Highs. I was quite involved in these activities.
Around 1965, I started working as a bilingual (Spanish) secretary at The American Institute for Free Labor Development. I was elected Shop Steward for secretaries and clerks and on the grievance committee all the 10 years I was there, and was on the contract negotiating team for two Collective Agreement negotiations. I also took courses on Labor History and other topics and the George Meany Labor School. At one point we held out on signing a contract for almost a year when they tried to back out of maternity benefits they had initially agreed upon. We also successfully fought a Civil Rights case when management announced they would not promote any women to the better paid Program Officer positions. I gave birth to two boys while I worked there, much enjoying the benefits we had fought for. One son is currently in Special Forces and has fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the late 1970s I was bilingual Administrative Assistant to At Large elected DC School Board Member, Frank Shaeffer Corona. Early in my employment Mr. Shaeffer Corona pointed to a large file drawer and said, “I want you to look through there and find a way to stop the strike we will have this fall if we can't change some BOE votes to accept the arbitrators' report.” After a good laugh, he said seriously, “Look I know you know a lot about teachers' conditions from your husband's activities. So maybe you can find something in there that we could use.” After an extensive search I discovered a memo that I knew to be completely false from a board member to the others. When I showed it to my boss and explained why it was wrong, he had me do research and I wrote a 50 page report. We distributed it to all Board Members, City Council Members, Congressmen on DC related committees, all Building Representatives and Principals, and the Press. I knew from my husband that the AFT was prepared to throw a major strike team into DC to set a national example, and we probably would have had a 3 week strike. The report changed two Boardmembers' votes and there was no strike.
From 1995 to 2005, I was caring for my mother, father, and husband as they were dying. My mother and husband who had Alzheimers wanted to die at home, and I honored their wishes. I learned a lot about health care and the problems of senior citizens. I have now recovered my strength, health and enthusiasm and wish to work improving the city I have lived in since the day after President Kennedy was elected. I hope your organization will support my candidacy, as I suspect I have the strongest union background of anyone running in DC.
ANSWERS TO UNITE HERE, LOCAL 25 QUESTIONNAIRE
LEADERSHIP AND PRIORITIES
1.What are your goals and priorities in elected office and how will you achieve these goals?
I plan to serve the people with honesty and compassion while reducing waste and harmful regulations. I want to have groups of citizens help me understand what improvements are needed There has been a steady erosion of funding for social programs which needs to be corrected. Many nit picking laws would not pass a good cost/benefits analysis.
2.Describe how you have worked with unions in the past that meets these goals, if applicable.
See MY BIOGRAPHY above.
WORKING WITH UNITE HERE! LOCAL 25 ON DEVELOPMENT, FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS
If elected, will you commit to the following? Explain why or why not:
a.Soliciting for and welcoming UNITE HERE! Local 25’s input on policy matters that affect the work of our members, including but not limited to enforcing and strengthening the district’s Labor Peace laws?
I would have one or two afternoons a week (possibly some on Saturday) when any person in the city can see me about any problem or issue where I could be of help. I would also try to meet with affected individuals, groups and organizations for any pending issues and votes. If volunteers would like to come in and assist with research or outreach on special projects or possible legislation they would be welcome, including from labor groups. I would also be happy to assist in mediating and promoting good labor relations between unions and the various workplaces in the city. If changes in the law would help, I would want to make them. Currently, the 6 Walmart stores and the issue of DC $12.50 living wage is one I would probably support.
b.Ensuring that all city supported hotel developments create good jobs with strong wages, health benefits. retirement security and workplace protections?
The above provisions make for happy workers. Happy workers are good workers, provide good service and promote tourism which is our second biggest source of employment and revenue.
c.Advocating for and protecting the First Amendment rights of UNITE HERE! Local 25 members and workers affiliated with Local 25?
All people deserve to have their First Amendment rights protected, including the right to petition for redress of grievances and meet to promote union membership and activities.
d.Soliciting for and welcoming UNITE HERE! Local 25’s input on campaign finance policy and fiscal matters that affect the work of our members?
I would definitely seek and want union input on campaign finance issues. The Citizens' United decision has created both problems and opportunities for workers and the labor movement.
e.Working with UNITE HERE! Local 25 to develop legislative proposals?
My door would always be open to union members wishing to develop legislation. I would also seek out advice from those whom I thought might have useful ideas.
f.Appointing qualified UNITE HERE Local 25 members to appropriate Boards and Commissions?
There are many vacancies on Boards and Commissions and I plan to take an active role in seeing that appropriate people are appointed. I have met several likely candidates while collecting petition signatures, and expect to meet many more as I campaign.
YOUR POSITION ON THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE AND TAX POLICY
1.Explain your position on whether workers should be able to freely choose for themselves whether they want to unionize without any employer interference.
Employees should absolutely have the right to vote without interference regarding union representation. It is also unfair for workers who do not pay dues to profit from benefits negotiated by the union for all workers.
2.What is your tax policy agenda?
I hope to promote tax fairness from the bottom up, unlike some who would give tax breaks from the top down. See ATTACHED TESTIMONY [look elsewhere on the blog for several posts covering various aspects of DC taxation] describing a number of areas wherein DC has fallen woefully behind in maintaining deduction, exemptions and other amounts at the originally intended level by failing to include cost of living adjustments and annual indexing.
[major extracts from the complete Questionnaire submitted for the 2012 primary election period]