Parting Words: For Mary Marzotto, it’s all about growing the union

On the eve of her July 1 retirement, San Francisco Vice-President Mary Marzotto reflected on her most memorable moments at Local 21.

“In 2010 I was recruited by union President Dean Coate to run for SF- Vice President. He convinced me that time commitment wasn’t that much.  Later, when I complained about his nonstop committee assignments, he confessed that he was looking for someone smart enough to do the job and dumb enough to take it.  Serving as the chair of the last two bargaining teams has been a lot of work and a lot of fun. We avoided a number of proposed take-aways, and this year ended up with one of the best union contracts in the region.

Are there one or two key victories/special moments from your tenure that you’ll remember? 
I think one of the most significant victories was the defeat of Proposition B in 2010.This was the first Jeff Adachi proposition that would have significantly increased the cost of pension and health care benefits for our members, especially those with families. It was essentially a declaration of war on all public employee unions. What it did was energize all the unions to work together, to organize our members to make phone calls, walk precincts, distribute door hangers and get out the vote to defeat this measure.

The following year this coalition of public employees unions put forth our own, more modest, pension reform measure, Proposition C, and in the same election defeated another draconian Adachi measure, Proposition D. These successful campaigns enabled us to build a strong coalition with other unions and maximized our own participation in the political arena.

What makes Local 21 members unique?  
Local 21 members are dedicated public servants who love the work they do. They are the unsung heroes who are the engine that makes government work. Our members have made intelligent decisions – like making wage concessions during the recession, paying more to sustain their pensions and health care and putting the needs of the community ahead of their own self interest. But they also understand the role of the union in protecting our wages and benefits. They may not be the first ones to pick up a picket sign but they are willing to join together and fight for what is right and what they deserve.

Local 21 members are razor sharp in analyzing budgets, spending and deficits.  They understand that our victories are not measured by what we’ve won or lost but by whether what we’ve done has grown the union and made it stronger.   Local 21 is starting to teach people how to recruit, train and engage new leaders—and when you do that, people do respond. A self-interest can grow to more of a community interest. The passing of the baton is important, so we must continue to engage new members.

What plans do you have for your retirement?

I hope to continue doing some of the same things I’m doing now – advocating for workers rights, volunteering with community organizations, and working on political campaigns. I’d like to take some classes, catch up on reading, pursue my sewing and jewelry making hobbies, skype more with my son and grandson and spend more time with my family and friends. My dog has also been waiting for me to take her on some long beach walks.   

This article is part of the Summer edition of the Local 21 Quarterly Magazine. Click here to download the complete magazine.