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Our Union Members are “Everyday Heroes”

This year’s nominees epitomize the spirit of public service, camaraderie and compassion, and inspire us all to reclaim the promise in our chosen fields and our communities.
By the time most kids are seven years old, they can tell you exactly what is fair. Yet, in the judicial system, parents sometimes are torn up with conflict over how to communicate and resolve their differences without extensively involving the courts. That’s where Laurie Anton (right) comes in. The world may not be fair, but she is.
The family relations counselor for the state’s courts and member of our Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union helps defuse conflicts between parents and shore up their communications skills. 
“The hope is that once they learn these skills it will keep them from having to come to court, as they may be better equipped to resolve many of their issues,” said the union member who submitted Anton’s name for nomination.
Diligent and patient, Anton continually learns new skills to demonstrate for her clients, so they can take these tools home and use them in everyday life.
Anton has “the calm demeanor and patience of a saint to tackle this level of conflict on a daily basis,” said her nominator. “She is able to present to these people as fair-minded, which is difficult, because high-conflict couples love to declare whose side you’re on. The couples working with her have learned how to better communicate with the other parent.”
That’s not all. Anton has a salutary effect on her fellow public employees. 
“I have also relied on her for advice as a co-worker and friend,” added her nominator. “I have referred to her at times as ‘the moral compass.’ She is without a doubt an Everyday Hero.”
IB ImageAnne Williams (left) may be a community college business professor, but she believes there’s much more to success than making money. “My personal business philosophy is ‘triple bottom line’ decision-making,” she said, adding that “profit is one bottom line, yes.” But she said “doing the best thing for the environment and being a good citizen in the community” are values of equal importance.
For Williams, a member of our Federation of Technical College Teachers, that means making sure her colleagues and students at Gateway Community College in New Haven are healthy and progressing. Along with courses in finance, accounting and business statistics, she teaches one on critical thinking, designed to help new students transition successfully into higher education.
Williams also volunteers on the tenure and promotion committee and is active in mentoring other faculty members, encouraging them to take leadership roles that will help them move their careers forward. She has initiated walking groups for staff and jumped through endless hoops to establish a flu clinic and annual flu shots, which are now part of campus culture.
Williams also started a campus book group and a service learning program. She works with the college foundation to provide scholarships for students, professional development grants for faculty and equipment for the college.
Williams, who came to teaching after a career in industry, has a master’s degree in strategy, and says strategy is particularly important during this time of diminishing funds for higher education.
“We understand the role that a union can play in improving working environment, which improves outcomes for employees and all your clients,” she said. “Giving workers common voice and bargaining power is good for everyone,” she added.
IB ImageRoger Woods (right) has been a staff nurse in the emergency department at Danbury Hospital for 15 years. “Just like Harry Potter’s wand found the wizard, nursing is the profession that found me,” said Woods, a member of our Danbury Nurses’ Unit 47. “Every time I write RN behind my name, I flash back to the journey it took to get here and I realize what I am and who I am, and I can’t help but smile,” he added.
Woods has a love of nursing, learning and sharing his newfound knowledge with others, and that’s a good thing for his healthcare colleagues. Two years ago, when the Ebola crisis hit in the U.S., Woods trained nurses at his hospital on how to safely use personal protective equipment to prevent them from contracting the virus or any other infectious disease. He was able to do that because he had decided to pursue first-responder training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) several years before.
A few years ago, Woods became a certified clinical hypnotist and uses his skills daily to calm anxious patients and family members. He’s developed a course to teach nurses how to use these same techniques to reduce stress and use language to influence care. Woods has also presented some of these approaches at churches and before civic groups to spread the word on how people can improve their health and well-being. 
As the union member who nominated Woods puts it, “he is exemplary in his willingness to help patients, colleagues and people in all walks of life.”
Vote for each of these “Everyday Heroes” today. Then encourage fellow union members to join you and cast their ballots online by May 29.
The finalists to receive the most votes in each of AFT’s seven divisions will be honored this summer at our national convention in Minneapolis. Four members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated unions were among the award winners two years ago.
Click here for AFT’s 2014 “Everyday Heroes.”

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