We Make Connecticut Happen

AFSCME Family Scholarship Winner

Deonne Edmonds, center, with Local 478 President Cass Lang (left) and Shermaine Cooke-Edmonds.

Deonne Edmonds, the daughter of Shermaine Cooke-Edmonds of Local 478 of our NP-3 State Clerical Bargaining Unit. is one of the winners of the 2017 AFSCME Family Scholarship. She will be Deonne will attend Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama.

We congratulate the Edmonds family. Here is the essay Deonne submitted:

I was born into a long line of union members, so the union has always meant a lot to me and my family. My great grandfather, Anthony Frederick Joseph, was one of the founding members of the Dominica Amalgamated Workers Union (DAWU), a trade union on the island of Dominica (not Dominican Republic). It is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation.

Since I was a young child, my mom always spoke about the importance of a union, however, I never fully understood the significance of a union until a few years ago when I was old enough to process what a union actually does.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME), of which my mom and grandmother are members, is an organization which allows its members to have a voice in the workplace. Through the union, employees impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work related issues. I’ve participated in demonstrations with my grandmother, where she and her colleagues were protesting for better work benefits; for example, higher pay increases, and for the prevention and/or the postponement of lay offs.

This is where the union is most effective as it would be impossible for one department to effect change of such a magnitude on its own. I have seen with my own eyes, as well as listening in on conversations between my mom and grandmother that there is strength in numbers. One important trait I have noticed is that AFSCME union members and leaders alike are very persistent; they do not give up until they have accomplished their goals and effected change. The union has saved my grandma's job on multiple occasions and has given my mom new opportunities.

My mom, Shermaine Edmonds, has been a part of Council 4 - Local 478 union executive board for many years, currently serving as a Steward (10+ years) combined, served as the 1st ever Good & Welfare Committee Chairperson for 4 years, Executive Board member for 2 years then appointed to Treasurer, this past election she was uncontested for Treasurer for 10/2016 – 10/2019 term.

Whether it is organizing events or buying snacks for the union office, she has always done her part. My sister and I have been at my Mom’s side when she takes on her own to visit the worksites of some of their members just to say hello and remind them to contact the Local or call her cell phone directly with any questions or concerns and encourage them to get involved with the union.

Union meetings are a family affair where my mom, my grandma, my sister and I attend General Membership meetings. As Treasurer, my Mom is in charge of ordering dinner and always makes sure it’s a nutritious and delicious dinner for the members and their family who attend. I usually help with the set up and clean up, handing out documents and making sure everyone signs in as the meeting is in progress.

I traveled to the 2015 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis and participated in the rally against Right to Work which is when I think I began to understand the union’s fight, most recently, my grandma and I accompanied my Mom to the 2016 International Convention in Las Vegas where I once again accompanied her in the rally in support of the Culinary Workers at the Trump International Hotel.

Without the union, the hard working employees who help the organizations be successful could be at a distinct disadvantage, as there would be no-one looking out for their best interests. The union is a lifeline not just to my family but to all the members, as a voice, a second chance, a protector, and an organization who will put them first. Some people need to know that there is someone there that won’t allow them to be mistreated in the workplace, or make sure they are working under the right conditions, and that labor laws are not being broken.

The union serves as a helping hand to so many people across the nation and I could not imagine what would happen to my family if there were no collective body looking out for my Mom and Grandma’s jobs.

Note: Alyssa Diaz, daughter of Local 1303 member Joseph Diaz, also was one of the winners of the $2,000 annual renewable scholarship.

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