Representing her coworkers in and out of the worksite
Steward Wandra Pitts understands how personal challenges can affect our work lives
Local 1000 Steward Wandra Pitts believes her work representing her coworkers doesn’t stop at the office door.
An Associate Government Program Analyst at CalPERS, she’s halfway through a year’s union leave, working at Local 1000’s Union Resource Center (URC), solving problems for members facing challenges in the workplace.
Pitts feels her work at the URC is training her to be a more effective steward. While she’s had many opportunities during her leave to participate in Local 1000’s social justice and political campaigns, her biggest revelations have come while working on cases at the URC. There, she’s seen first-hand what happens after stewards advocate for their coworkers and the impressive legal and representational resources the union brings to bear in winning for members.
“We are the voice for the voiceless,” says Pitts.
She describes her role as a steward as giving her coworkers a safe place to bring workplace and personal issues that may be too uncomfortable to talk about directly with their managers. After working with members and their stewards, she can determine the best way to present the issues to management and insist on resolution. Pitts has seen time and time again that interceding on behalf of her members has helped them retain their dignity in a way that standing alone before the state’s bureaucracy does not.
“It makes me feel good that I can be a support system for our members,” said Pitts.
Pitts has a heightened sensitivity to the struggles of those who require accommodation because she has had to fight for the needs of her high school-age son who suffers from severe scoliosis. She knows that often people’s needs aren’t always visible from the outside and it can be demeaning when authority figures don’t take them at their word. Her son’s experience has taught her that her coworkers who are struggling with issues may not want to be vocal advocates for themselves.
“People just want to come in and do the job they were hired to do,” Pitts said. “They don’t want to verbalize what’s going on with them. They don’t want bring attention to themselves.”
But Pitts’ representation of her coworkers goes beyond the workplace. For her, the power we build as union members can build a better world for everyone. Childcare and early education, income inequality, the past and future in the fight for racial justice: Pitts has learned that all of these issues affect the everyday lives of our members and these communities and Local 1000 is active in each of these areas.
“Local 1000 is not just a union for bargaining for state workers,” Pitts said. “We can make a better world for everyone when we band together.”