Having a Union Means Never Being Alone

What is the feeling you get when you show up to work one day and you are called into an unscheduled meeting in the conference room? You walk in and see management sitting across the table with expressions that indicate this meeting is not going to go well.

It is a feeling of fear for what’s about to come next, a feeling that you may have to be fighting back against something you don’t fully understand.

But for Mary Hill, a Miami-Dade County animal services worker, being a member of AFSCME Local 199 meant that when this happened to her recently she never once felt alone. That is because also in the room was her union representative, Se’Adoreia “CeeCee” Brown.

Just over two months after she met with managers about how to improve operations, she and a coworker were told that their positions were being eliminated.

It was a shock to Hill, who has been an AFSCME member almost her entire 24-year career. At first, she took it personally, given all she and her coworkers do every day.

“There were a lot of tears at first because something like that happens and you think, OK, what now, how do I cover my bills, how do I have health insurance?” said Hill, who has been a leader in her department for years. “But CeeCee was there to calm us down and to work with us to fight back.”

Working together with Brown, Hill went through her contract and found a clear path to save her job even if her position was going to change. Management had been meeting for almost a year on ways to reorganize the department, but had only contacted AFSCME when it was time to tell members who were going to be laid off – a clear violation of the contract.

They took their issue straight to the mayor’s office and made it clear that this was a job that was not going to be cut, and they won. It was another in a string of victories for Local 199 that members are feeling at the worksite and in their paychecks.

“I’ve built a job into a career thanks to AFSCME, and when it looked like it was going to be taken away from me, I know I didn’t have to go through this fight alone,” said Hill.