Custodian sets tone for new task force on professionalism
OUR UNION’S NEW task force on professionalism, a broadly representative group of union leaders and community activists chaired by AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker, held its first meeting this past spring in Washington, D.C.
The group is tasked with looking at what it means to be treated as a professional in any workplace; barriers to professional treatment in the workplace and in society; and strategies for eliminating those barriers to make it easier to attract and retain qualified employees, gain greater respect for our work, elevate the dignity of all workers and create professional work environments.
The meeting featured a panel discussion on “dignity in our work,” with presentations by Sonia Chavez, a custodian with Ace Janitorial Services; Lauren Lawrence, a special education teacher who is a member of the Black Youth Project 100; and Ed Muir from the AFT’s research and strategic initiatives department. Chavez gave a powerful talk about the difficulty of earning a wage that can support her family because of the way the federal government subcontracts custodial services. Participants watched a video about organized efforts to get the federal government to treat Chavez and workers like her more fairly.
Chavez’s remarks serve as a reminder that, besides advocating for professionalism for our members in the union, we also must focus on the dignity of all workers and lift up everyone’s profession, Ricker said.
AFT President Randi Weingarten asked task force members to think about how we move to a workforce where people are treated well economically and professionally. The group’s next meeting is this fall, and its work will result in a resolution for the 2016 AFT convention next July.