A Leader Is Born
From member to steward and community activist
Hannah Konnoff grew up with a mother who was active in the civil rights movement, a feminist and an anti-war protester. Although she had been raised to act on her values, life compelled Konnoff to put her activism on the back burner.
“I just kind of got wrapped up in trying to survive,” she said.
When Konnoff became a Local 1000 member nine years ago, after taking a position as an AGPA at Department of General Services, “I always meant to be active but I kept putting it off,” she said. Then, two and a half years ago, her DLC asked her to pitch in with things like putting up fliers and phone banking and, after a bad management experience, she decided to take the steward training. Soon she was a union steward and began serving as the secretary in DLC 787.
Finally, she was ready to take her activism to a broader stage.
Konnoff attended a meeting of Stand Up and Take Charge, a Local 1000 initiative begun in 2013 to connect members with activists and organizations in their communities to work on economic justice issues. Konnoff’s first meeting featured a film on the fight to raise the minimum wage that spoke to her and to her life history.
“I worked in fast food when I was young,” Konnoff said. “And I know what it’s like to have a really crappy job that you need to survive, but it’s just miserable and they treat you horribly. I think those people who are standing up are just so brave. [Their stories] actually made me cry.”
A connection sparked that evening between her union values and the importance of community action for Konnoff; a connection, she said, that is key to communicating with a general public that doesn’t always understand labor’s deep commitment to social and economic justice.
“We get so focused on what’s going on with our own issues,” she said. “But I think that, as a union, our only real chance for survival is if we can show the public how we’re relevant to them.”
Konnoff says Stand Up and Take Charge is all about building power through strategic alliances for the betterment of California as well as the continued vitality of the union. “If we can take the wonderful things that we do for our members and share them with the rest of the state,” she said, “we can have a real impact on improving the quality of life for everyone.”