Jerome Washington Helps Lead the Fight for Environmental Justice for All
Earth Day, which occurs on April 22, is a reminder of the important role we all have to play as stewards of our environmental health. As summer approaches and high heat sets in, SEIU Local 1000 remains committed to our mission to help our members—and ALL Californians—enjoy the fruits of social, economic, and environmental justice. To make our mission statement’s commitment to the environment more than words, members like Jerome Washington have been leading the way through the SEIU Local 1000 Environmental Committee.
Jerome’s work with the Environmental Committee began with his work as a job steward. After finishing his training in 2011, he fought to be a voice in his worksite to make members heard at the negotiating table through proactive and strategic actions. “We were going through a contract negotiation, and I wanted our membership to understand the process and how they could impact it,” he said, “especially after the minimum wage threat in 2009 and 2010.” This work at the bargaining table soon showed that building durable member power is a crucial first step in members fighting for justice in other areas of life.
After he was elected as a DLC President, his mission remained the same: to be a voice for his worksite, which covers four Northern California counties. The scope of this work means outreach and involvement with members in his DLC, which is important to build power and uplift the voices of all members in DLC 749. “As President, I have always strived for members having power within their worksites by focusing on organizing right there. We’re building leaders in every county.” These leaders in turn build a stronger and better-organized DLC, which can tackle some of the major concerns that all Californians face.
These concerns eventually led Jerome to look into the Environmental Committee as a way to engage members within their communities. “The environment is not an abstract concept that’s somewhere over there,” he said. “It’s all around us; it’s where we sleep, where we work, where our kids go to school, and where we play.”
When we fight for the health of our communities and our environment, we’re fighting for our own health and the health of our families. The outreach work that Jerome is engaged in has taken on many different forms. “It may mean educating our neighbors, legislators, and businesses,” he said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to engage our members in their communities.”
While the challenges that we face as a state are great, only by remaining committed to our goals and values can we drive meaningful change. For leaders like Jerome, that means developing and expanding the work that is being done within Local 1000 and to be flexible and expand the scope of what people think about when they reflect on worker’s fighting for justice. “The Environmental Committee is working on a series of environmental events to educate and engage our members on environmental issues,” Jerome added. “Being the chair of the Environmental Committee has given me the ability to be creative in relating and connecting with our members.”