Susan Rodriguez – Building Member Strength at State Fund
Susan Rodriguez, SEIU Local 1000 member and Unit 1 Chair, first became an activist during contract negotiations. Her office was planning on an informational picket, and she stepped up to help organize and spread the word in her workplace at the San Jose District Office for State Fund. Two years later, Susan became a steward and followed that up almost immediately by getting involved as a CBUR. “I did it because I wanted to make sure that our office had that connection with the larger organization of SEIU Local 1000,” she said. “I wanted to be that advocate for my office and State Fund in the much bigger arena.”
Susan’s priorities today remain the same as they were then: to bridge the gap of information between SEIU Local 1000 and State Fund and to be an advocate for change and communication so members at State Fund believe they are the Union. Her success as a steward and CBUR has in turn led to her working on the State Fund Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC), where she can better vouch for member issues. The JLMC is a committee composed of union members and department managers, designed to foster dialogue between frontline employees and upper management on issues that are systemic throughout the organization.
One specific concern the committee has been highlighting is their work to change the State Fund’s culture to one more conducive to the needs of state workers. “We are here to make sure that the culture at State Fund fosters collaboration, respect, and dignity for all levels of employees within State Fund,” she said. “JLMC gives rank-and-file members a way to communicate our needs with upper management to make sure that issues that are important to us are making it to the president of our organization.” The role of the JLMC here is to build a collaborative relationship between management and rank-and-file employees, so that those that work on the floor have their needs addressed. “It’s rewarding to solidify the connection between issues that arise in the workplace and the implementation of real managerial policy change that better enables our organization to respond to the needs of members.”
With almost 95 percent of state employees working from home, that connection has become more important than ever as members confront new issues that require new solutions. As a result, the JLMC has broadened its focus to address the situation. “Members working from home in our bill paying and customer service centers are managing their work while helping their kids with distance learning,” Susan reflected. “Adjusting to a new normal of working and setting those boundaries is different for everybody, but our work and the production needs of State Fund have not changed.”
As vaccinations rise and cases fall, the future is looking more and more exciting for the work Susan is developing. “I’m looking forward to the visiting restrictions being lifted and being able to go out and talk with members face-to-face,” she said. “The JLMC team had planned before the pandemic to visit 2 to 3 State Fund worksites each year, but those were put on hold.” Where those visits will take place remains to be determined based on health and safety restrictions, but the JLMC will continue to engage members in person and develop stronger ties as we fight to find solutions for the challenges ahead.