Never Quitting Means Winning for Workers - Even Miles Off Shore

If you’ve ever visited the Florida Keys, and spent any time off of dry land, then you’ve visited the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Established in 1990, the marine sanctuary stretches south from border of Miami-Dade County and west until you reach Dry Tortugas National Park. That is 2,800 square nautical miles of coral reefs, shipwrecks, seagrass beds, and fisheries that are the source of commercial and recreational activities like diving, fishing, and boating that attracts people from around the world.

But who actually protects this fragile ecosystem while keeping it accessible? AFSCME members of course! Specifically members of AFSCME Local 3346 because Florida International University actually administers services on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For members like Brady Booton, a marine operations technician for more than seven years, Never Quit means going out, rain or shine, to maintain the nearly 1,000 buoys that allow boats to tie up without dropping anchor into the living coral reefs. It takes diving, boating and other special licenses to allow you to spend hours at sea, and under water, working with tools and machinery to demarcate special use zones for fishing, wildlife management and scientific research.

“I love my job, but it is hard work and not something everyone has the qualifications or temperament to do,” said Booton. “But my coworkers and I know we are helping to preserve this amazing jewel of our country every day.”

While it may seem to be a vacation paradise, the Florida Keys is not the most affordable place to live. So, over the past few months as NOAA and FIU were looking at the troubles they have in filling open positions, Booton and his coworkers worked with AFSCME Florida staff representatives to advocate for better pay to reflect the work they do and where they do it.

And they won. Base pay for the position was increased by $5,000 annually and Booton and his coworkers have discovered they have a strong voice when they advocate for their jobs and those they serve.

“Knowing you have a union, that people are looking out for each other, that makes a huge difference for us as we look forward to our next contract negotiations while keeping an eye on the national climate when it comes to funding the things that make America great, like preservation of our natural resources here in the Florida Keys,” said Booton.

Find more great photos of Booton at work at