Stepping Forward, Making a Difference

Change will not come if we wait for some other people, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.

—US President Barack Obama

These words impacted me. As an immigrant, I understand and value all that is rich in American democracy. It is right then that I should be courageous, participate and engage and immerse myself. I am obligated to step outside of my comfort zone.

Phone-banking, canvassing, connecting with people, talking to legislators, testifying in front of the legislature for higher education funding, speaking to the increase in student enrollment, the consequential impact of the heavier workload for University of Oregon workers; all these meant getting outside my comfort zone.

Every time I volunteered was an opportunity to learn from experienced leaders in our Local 085 and its parent SEIU 503. Naturally introverted, I took important steps forward to empower myself after an ugly bully boss experience. I did not imagine that I could be a leader. I learned to find comfort in speaking up, to challenge myself to find my voice and speak up against my bully boss.

I grew personally, and my leadership capacity grew as well; my public speaking and verbal expression remain works-in-progress.

Together with Chief Bargaining Delegate and Vice President Johnny Earl, I am involved with SEIU 503’s Civil and Human Rights Committee. Earl and SEIU 503–085 UO Secretary Zach Benedict are currently appointed leaders on the committee, and I remain in an ex-officio role. I previously served two terms as co-chair with Carmen Morales Mayoral, a leader from the Oregon Department of Human Services.

SEIU 503 committees serve as a resource for all union members and SEIU staff. The charge to the people who work on the committees is to

  • increase participation among our diverse members by addressing social and economic justice,
  • develop leadership,
  • promote respect and understanding,
  • improve communication
  • and create a culture of inclusion.

I helped plan and organize events and conferences, a list of which follows. I invited policy and activist leaders in academia and coalition organizations as well as activist leaders and members of SEIU 503 and related organizations to speak in a panel format.

Civil and Human Rights Committee Co-chair Carmen Mayoral and I have different immigrant experiences, yet we share a common interest in the mission of the Civil and Human Rights Committee. When we served together, we pressed issues of diversity, equality and fairness for members. We said the SEIU board and staff should reflect the demographics of Oregon state. We sought to build coalitions in our communities, to continue the hard work to strengthen our civil and human rights.

The committee meets regularly to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in our union. It also plans events for SEIU locals to bring awareness to General Council delegates.

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SEIU Local 085