An interview with President-elect Brenda Rodrigues

BrendaQ: Your slate was called Leadership for Changing Times. Members voted for a change in leadership. What are the first steps you will take to usher in change for the membership?

I am beginning a listening tour to hear from our members across the state. I want to visit members in small and large groups and learn about their jobs, what they do every day, and what issues we can work on together to improve worker power. I hope this listening tour will open the doors to better communication between rank-and-file members and union leadership. One of the biggest things we have to address is the changing environment for unions, which will require better listening and improved communications.

In the upcoming months we will focus on staff and member training, reorganizing our office to allow staff to more efficiently and effectively do their daily jobs. One good sign: we’ve recently had staff and members sign up for Labor Guild classes.

Q: Change won’t happen overnight. What can members do to help you achieve the vision that they voted for?

My big focus is listening and building relationships. Members can help their union by building stronger relationships with their co-workers, and backing each other up on the job. Our union is facing huge challenges. For one, we have more than 200 chapters from the Cape to Springfield. It’s a lot of ground to cover, so I want to enlist the Executive Board and other members to help. Another major challenge is the nationwide effort to decimate unions and to take away people’s benefits. The Janus v. AFSCME case is one example. If we don’t start building stronger relationships between ourselves now, it’s going to be too late.

Q: What changes will you make that will impact members’ day to day lives?

I plan to take a hard look at the current staff set up. I want to find out, do we need more organizers or field staff? If someone isn’t getting their phone call answered I will find out why. Last week I talked to a member who told me of not being able to find out how many bereavement days he was entitled to after his father passed away. He didn’t know his staff representative, steward, or chapter chair and couldn’t find this information anywhere. I plan to set up a member “hotline” where members can call in and get questions answered quickly.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Throughout my campaign, I met so many members across the state who inspired me with their commitment to their jobs and our union. Our members are working so hard to provide quality public services, to do their jobs well and to maintain fair working conditions for each other.

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