Kim Thompson is a Principal Engineer at the Department of Technology in CCSF, where she manages three different groups. She is also a Volunteer Organizing Team (VOT) member for IFPTE Local 21 who is leading the charge to organize her co-workers to choose union in the face of Janus v AFSCME, the upcoming Supreme Court case expected to try to weaken unions.
Ms. Thompson became a Delegate for the IT chapter and learned about Janus v AFSCME at a Delegate Assembly. That’s when she decided to get involved and become a VOT. She knows firsthand what a difference being a member of a strong union makes. For a period of time, Ms. Thompson was working in a City position that was not covered by a union contract. She didn’t get the same raises that her union counterparts did, because the non-represented employees didn’t have a seat at the table with the City. “I just had to take whatever the City wanted to give me, I had no avenue for advocacy. I wanted to get into a union position as quickly as possible,” she says.
With Janus v AFSCME looming, and anti-public worker forces standing by to encourage people to drop their union, she knew that it was time to stand up and protect her union. There is no question in her mind that the stakes are high. As a VOT, she talks with co-workers about the value of their union and how their solidarity is the only defense against the attacks coming our way. “It takes a village to get things done,” she says, “unions are how you get your raises. The more of us who drop out and don’t pay our fair share, the weaker we all become.”
As a VOT, she says that most people she talks to about supporting our union understand and want to commit to keeping us strong. Sometimes she runs into workers who think they don’t need a union because they think the City would extend the same raises, benefits, and protections without one. Others think they can just leave their position if they don’t like how they are treated. Thompson talks to them about how raises, benefits, and a secure retirement are not a sure thing, like she found out when she worked for the City without a union contract. She also points out that it is not so easy to pick up and look for a new job when you’ve committed many years to the City. Whether you have family obligations, or are a victim of the very real problem of age and other discrimination in the job market, workers shouldn’t have to leave to get a fair deal.
Ms. Thompson says that she was initially worried that she would need a lot of training and experience to be a VOT, but she says she got acclimatized quickly. Talking to her co-workers has been a positive experience, and her floor is well on its way to full membership. She hopes many more members decide to join her and become empowered VOTs.
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If you’d like to help with our goal of talking with all our 11,000 members about keeping us strong, email us “I’m In” at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need you!