“What a Union is All About”

April 8, 2014: An interview with Brooke Reeves a Local 251 Steward at Rhode Island Hospital.

You backed the incumbent officials who lost the Local 251 election. What’s it been like since then?

The biggest change is the new leadership is totally up front with the members. The old Business Agent made deals that were kept totally secret from us.

We just found a Memorandum of Understanding that cut starting pay for new hires. I wanted to throw up. The old BA signed that in the middle of the contract and didn’t even tell us.  

With the new officers, everything is out in the open.

What’s the biggest difference that stands out about the new local leadership?

They’re not here to make deals with H.R. or try to make H.R. happy; they’re here to help the members.  

They don’t play favorites. They knew I didn’t support them in the election, but they reached out to work with me. They said the election’s over, it’s time to come together.

The old BAs played favorites. If they didn’t like you, they didn’t return your call.

It may sound corny, but these guys are sincere about representing every member.

We’ve got a lot more grievances now, but that’s because members are getting results, instead of getting ignored, so more people are coming forward to ask for help.

How has this experienced changed your view of TDU?

Before, I didn’t really know what TDU was. I only heard what the officials told me: that TDU sucks and they’re out to destroy the union.

I didn’t have anything negative to say about TDU really. Well… I think I posted TDU Sucks once on my Facebook page (laughs).

I went to a TDU Education Conference and that’s where I saw for myself what TDU is really about. The training there blew me away. I’ve been a steward for years and the old local officials never gave us any training the whole time. We were on our own.  

I like that TDU wants members to know what can be done and how to do it the right way. TDU gives you the tools to defend members and enforce the contract. That’s what union is all about. I joined TDU myself right then and there.

The Rhode Island Hospital contract covering over 2,500 members expires later this year….

Yeah, and I think it’s going to be the toughest contract fight we’ve ever had. Contract negotiations have always been behind closed doors. It’s always been, “Here’s the new contract. Now vote on it.”

This time, we’re really going to talk with all the members and bring people together.

The Hospital wants to take a lot away. It’s up to us to stick together and protect what we have.

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