Erika Chattarpal: Working to Engage Her Fellow Members
Erika Chattarpal, an employee at the DMV and a member of SEIU Local 1000, knows all too well that working for the State can sometimes feel like navigating a complex maze. When she became a Job Steward, guiding members through these structures took on even greater importance.
“My priority has always been educating our members on the importance of being active and alert to what goes on in our union,” Erika said. “I’ve been with the State for 24 years, and I went the first 13 of those not knowing I wasn’t a member. I never knew we were divided into districts, that we had executive boards, or the difference between fair share and membership.” So, when DMV became the only State agency required to stay open to the public for in-person customer service, she knew she had to act to ensure her workplace was kept safe.
This led to her working with DMV H.E.A.T. (Heavy Enforcement Action Team). “I saw firsthand how our members got infected with COVID, so DMV H.E.A.T. stood up to prevent the State from endangering our health and safety,” she said. “The State was willing to open to the public without requiring customers to wear a mask, provide us with plexiglass protection, or adhere to CDC and Department of Health Compliance.”
Standing up for her coworkers meant taking a stand and bringing other state workers into the loop on what it would take to protect their safety in the workplace. “We stopped the opening and demanded the State provide PPE, face shields, masks, gloves, plexiglass, hand sanitizer portable water sinks, wipes, extra security, posters, and hand sanitizer stands for the public. We even did health and safety inspections to supervise compliance.” Protecting the health of the workplace was a collective effort, one that took a lot of interaction between DMV H.E.A.T. and other member leaders who stepped up to protect what was important to them.
As we all know, your workplace can impact your health in a number of ways, and not just during a pandemic. The fight for quality health care is especially close to home for Erika. “In the midst of this pandemic, we really valued our health care,” she reflected. “I’m proud our union looked out for us. I’ve had a few negative situations happen to me and my family. Employees shouldn’t work just for health care benefits, especially when the costs continue to rise as the care shrinks. I want to bring awareness to our members that we can do something about it and to continue the fight for 100% paid medical.”
Erika is currently working to bring together members to fight for better, more comprehensive health care by encouraging participation through focus groups and surveys. The Health Care Committee is also working on several projects to address the various needs for members across the state who face barriers to care. “Being part of the health care committee has opened my eyes to how much more is needed,” Erika said. “There are so many members in Northern California that do not have quick access to a clinic or hospital,” she said. “We always have eyes and ears within CalPERS to protect our health coverage and prevent premium increases. It’s important for CalPERS to know that people are suffering, and I’m excited to help expand clinics and hospitals to other areas throughout the state.”
To get more involved with the Health Care Member Team, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org