‘Nothing Is Going to Change Until You Join’

When Darryl Lamar started working for the City of Jacksonville as a code compliance officer a year and a half ago, one of the things he missed about his previous jobs with Bell South and AT&T was his strong union voice through the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

Darryl Lamar became a member of Local 1279, then signed up 20 more new members.

“Everyone knew the value of a strong union because whenever someone new was hired there was a conversation with them about why joining was important right away, and that carried over to ensuring we always were united for anything that came up,” said Lamar.

But all the many duties of  a compliance office in America’s geographically largest city discouraged Lamar from finding out more about his new union, AFSCME Local 1279, until upcoming contract negotiations with the city underscored for him the need to get involved.

“We need to be aggressive in these contract negotiations,” he said. “We need to fight hard for things like step increases and an increase in compensation for employees who are kept on stand-by call day after day with little to show for it.”

And to win the respect for the job he and other city employees do, Lamar knows it means having more people standing AFSCME Strong. So in addition to signing a membership card himself, Lamar has signed up more than 20 new members in his unit within the last month. Where before there was only a couple of members, now there is more than 50 percent participation and a new steward: Darryl Lamar.

“Nothing is going to change until you join the union,” said Lamar. “But as long as we fight for what is right, as long as we stand up for the services we provide to the citizens of this city, people will keep joining.”

Lamar said that biggest change he hopes to bring to his new union, even after contract negotiations have passed, is that the most important thing a member can do it to talk to their fellow employees, especially new hires.

“Just asking someone if they want to join, just starting the conversation about why it is important for them, their career and the benefits they get, that is the first and most important step.”