Professionalism, from generation to generation

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After an inspiring tribute to our centennial, a distinguished gentleman stepped to the mic. "Hello to all you AFTers," he said. "I have this black badge on my lapel. It says: 'Teachers are my heroes.' Congratulations on your 100th, and thanks for honoring retirees."

But Ken Ricker isn't just a fan of teachers and retirees; he is a retired high school math teacher, born and raised on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. He recounted how his father had worked in the iron mines for 37 years, which is how he became familiar with the AFL-CIO. When he landed his first teaching job, he was thrilled to find his union affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

"If you have belief in your profession, as I do, you want someone who will carry on," he said. Someone who is dedicated and enthusiastic. And with that, he introduced his daughter, AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker.

"It is easy to belong to a 'union of professionals' when you come from a family of professionals," the junior Ricker said. She said she learned firsthand about high expectations from her father, a professional both at work and in his union.

"Generation to generation, we pass along our values," said Mary Cathryn.

Robert Chacanaca

Later in the day, she introduced Robert Chacanaca (pictured above), a school safety officer from Santa Cruz, Calif., president of the Santa Cruz Council of Classified Employees and a member of the AFT Task Force on Professionalism.

Chacanaca asked for a professional courtesy and thanked the security guards, food service workers, stagehands and AFT staff working the convention.

"As a union of professionals, we advocate for our members at every stage of their careers, in the same way we advocate for bread-and-butter issues like compensation and working conditions," he said, outlining the work of the task force. Our affiliates have the right to demand genuine two-way communication, he said, along with effective systems for recruiting and retaining employees. And we will keep campaigning for legislation, contract language and community initiatives that give our members authority over their work, fair compensation and access to the knowledge they need to do their jobs.

Last but not least, the task force is calling for an end to the exploitation of part-time workers, Chacanaca said. Going forward, it will continue to take advantage of opportunities to elevate our members' work.

"Our members are professionals," he said. "Si se puede!"

[Annette Licitra/photo by Michael Campbell]