Maria Skelton: Working to Make a Difference for Her Fellow Members
In addition to the bargaining, negotiations and economics, a huge part of SEIU Local 1000’s primary goal is to make sure that workplaces across California are fair, safe, and respectful environments for state workers. The greatest part of that work comes down to job stewards, who help speak up for their coworkers when problems arise in the workplace, and are a voice for those who do not yet know how to make themselves heard.
Maria Skelton, a DMV Worker and SEIU Local 1000 member, decided to become a job steward herself after one too many problems at work drove her to seek change. “I became a steward because I got tired of running scared from management,” she said. “There was a situation at work, and the way that my steward, Wendy Parker, came in and saved me and my job showed me that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Right, then and there, I wanted in.” Ever since then she has been working to create safer workplaces for her coworkers.
The need for workplaces that are focused on respect not only improves the lives of the workers, but it makes sure that the workplace is somewhere where bad management practices don’t suffocate staff. “My priorities were and still are making sure that the employees feel accepted, safe, heard, and appreciated,” she said. “The issue that I’m focusing on right now is fairness for all.” While we transition out of the worst of COVID-19 and discover what we need to do in the future, state workers have been asked to shoulder a great burden. “For the last year, state workers have been impacted by worrying if they’ll get COVID and take it home to their loved ones,” she said. Finding ways to make sure that the stress and difficulties in the workplace do not become a toxic environment, as well as pushing back on management that may compound these issues is what drives her to keep working. “You can’t get or ask for a better group of hard-working employees like the amazing state workers,” she said.
Being a job steward is a lot of responsibility, which requires a great deal of interpersonal communication and awareness of the issues in a workplace. Raising up the voices of those who sometimes are ignored while understanding the best way to respond to challenges is difficult. “While working as a steward I had to face many challenges,” Maria said. “Respect from management and trust from the employees, but also trust in myself.” This balance is critical, because without advocating for yourself, how can you advocate for others? “It’s important that I have the ability to stand up not only for myself but for the employees as well,” she said.