Member leader Thomas Hwang says
“Together we can accomplish changes we can’t do alone”
When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March and a statewide stay-at-home order threw hundreds of thousands of state workers into chaos, member leader Thomas Hwang knew just what to do: organize for the proper working conditions.
Thomas learned the power of collective action when—in pre-COVID times—he banded together with his colleagues to increase the telework days available at his Department of Insurance office in Sacramento, where he works as an Associate Insurance Rate Analyst.
“We couldn’t make this happen by smiling and nicely asking our manager,” Thomas says. “We all put pressure on the boss and doubled our telework days.”
So, when nearly three quarters of the State’s workforce converted to telework in a matter of weeks last spring, he began organizing. Less than 24 hours later, the department announced a 100% teleworking plan for his office.
Now, Thomas is a part of an eight-member Cost Savings Task Force working with the State to identify $200 million in budget reductions to prevent a year-long delay of our planned 2021 general salary increase.
“With so many of us living paycheck-to-paycheck and/or taking second jobs, I’m sure that the State delaying our 2% general salary increase is a major concern for everyone,” he says.
Since late summer, the Task Force has met monthly with the State, and will issue a list of recommendations that will save the State money and preserve the salary increase. The eight member leaders are also spending hours of their own time to parse information and ideas from a state budget with millions of line items.
“I accepted the opportunity to participate because I see this as an opportunity to build our union as part of our larger, ongoing struggle for justice,” he added.
As the Task Force draws closer to issuing a report in March of 2021, Thomas will work to organize his fellow members to ensure ideas become reality.
“If we do our work right and do our organizing well, we will build our union’s power,” says Thomas. “A union exists so that we can accomplish together what we can’t change alone.”