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Connecting Co-Workers in Florida

by Pablo Ros & Mark McCullough  |  March 10, 2016

This article was first published in the Winter 2016 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.

Connecting Co-Workers in Florida Members at an AFSCME Strong training in Miami last fall.

One had only been an AFSCME member for a month, another for about a year. A third had a year-and-a-half of public service under his belt. But all three members had one thing in common: a determination to join together to have the strongest possible voice for themselves and their co-workers in the workplace.

The way they're doing that is through AFSCME Strong, our union’s program to communicate, one-on-one, with fellow workers to highlight the importance of sticking together to make our voices heard.

These Floridians are strangers to one another, separated by job and home town. Yet all are part of AFSCME’s growing family.

Becoming AFSCME Strong

Grisela Argenal & Elsa Lina Clark

Grisela Argenal & Elsa Lina Clark

Elsa Lina Clark was a member of AFSCME Florida Local 199 for about a month, yet the electronic document technician for the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources was already AFSCME Strong, having participated in an activist training last October.

Later she worked with a trainer to perfect her conversation and listening skills, motivated to listen to her co-workers and spread the word about the importance of standing strong. “There are so many reasons why everybody should be in the union,” she said.

Grisela Argenal, a lab technician in Clark’s department, was a member of Local 199 for about a year when she began her AFSCME Strong training. She said it built her confidence when speaking to co-workers about “what the union is about, and how I can help my co-workers with their different situations.”

Many co-workers don’t join the union because of fears and misconceptions, she explained, but that only motivated her to “try to encourage them” to join. “That’s the part I like the most.”

Why I Joined

Members at an AFSCME Strong training in Miami. Members at an AFSCME Strong training in Miami.

Darryl Lamar, a code compliance officer for the City of Jacksonville for a year and a half, realized the need to build a stronger union last fall when contract negotiations were about to begin. “We need to fight hard for things like step increases,” and other pocketbook issues, he said. That meant signing up new members of AFSCME Local 1279 — himself included. Then he helped to sign up more than 20 other co-workers in his unit — just within a month.

“Nothing is going to change until you join the union,” said Lamar, who is now his union’s steward. “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.”

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