Co-Building Reps Work Together to Represent Members
“Teachers become teachers because we want to help kids,” says Danbury building rep Lori Woodruff. “It’s the same with our union—we are here to help each other. As teachers, when we’re involved with the union we can do more to help one another.”
Woodruff, a fourth grade teacher, shares her building rep responsibilities at Danbury’s Academy for International Studies Elementary Magnet School with art teacher Donna Bosworth—an arrangement the two say serves them and their members well.
“We can finish each other’s sentences,” says Woodruff. “When we have our 10-minute meetings I’m good at pulling people back to the agenda, and Donna’s really good at explaining in-depth items.”
“As building reps, it’s really good to have a buddy system,” says Bosworth. “If one person has an appointment, the other person is available to go support a member. We can look at problems in our building and our union from two different perspectives, that of a classroom teacher and that of a specials teacher.”
Bosworth started out as a building rep over fifteen years ago, and first got involved with her union because, as an art teacher, she often wasn’t privy to what was going on.
“I realized that if I wanted to find out what was going on, I had to start showing up for the meetings,” Bosworth says.
She quickly found out that being able to support other staff members was very rewarding. “Being able to help other members in that way was an extension of what I love about teaching,” she says.
Woodruff began her own involvement in her union thanks to a family connection.
“My husband is a union organizer for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, and he coached me and encouraged me to be more involved,” she says. “There were a couple of women I worked with who had been building reps, and I just asked if I could go with them to one of the meetings.”
Woodruff says that when she first started attending union meetings, “My first reaction was, ‘Wow, our executive board really works hard for us.’ I didn’t realize how much our president and vice president did until I got involved. As I became more involved as a building rep and understood more about the importance of being involved in local politics I also joined our NEA Danbury political action committee.”
Woodruff adds, “Before I became involved with my local I didn’t understand how important our union was when it comes to making a difference, politically. As a member of our political action committee, this fall I canvassed for Jahana Hayes and a number of other candidates, and the majority of the people we were supporting were elected.”
“Being politically involved is so important for teachers,” agrees Bosworth. “If we want to be involved in decisions that affect our profession and our students we need to have a voice. We’re much stronger when we have many voices together.”
“If we want change to happen in our schools when it comes to the way teachers are treated and if we want the respect we deserve, we have to be involved and have our voices heard,” says Woodruff. “We can’t let someone else do it for us. Teachers are an enormous group who have a really loud voice if we stick together.”