The Sector Café sessions on Tuesday gave attendees of AFSCME 43rd International Convention a chance to break off into groups based on the jobs they do and discuss workplace issues specific to their professions. Activists discussed ways to increase power in their specific industries.
There were sessions for workers in the broad sectors dealing with child support and welfare; corrections; emergency medical services; K-12 and higher education; home care and health care; law enforcement; libraries; public works; environmental protection; transportation; housing; behavioral health and employment and vocational services and public assistance.
For a group of Cedar Rapids, Iowa public works employees, one big goal of the sector cafés stood out: “To see if other people are dealing with the same issues we’re dealing with,” said Ray Druger, a Local 620 (Council 61) water specialist.
How do other public works employees address what Kevin McIntyre, who handles streets and roads, calls “too many silos. There’s too much segregation [between] departments. Water, sewers, streets – it all needs to be coordinated.”
For library workers John Hyslop, of the Queens Library Guild, Local 1321(DC 37), and Ronaldo Barber of the Brooklyn Library Guild, Local 1482 (DC 37), the sector café offered something beyond the shop talk.
“I enjoyed the camaraderie,” said Hyslop.
Ronaldo Barber added that issues like “staffing and dealing with management” were also topics of conversation.
Philip Bennett of Oklahoma’s Local 2406 from AFSCME’s Southwest District is a carpenter by training, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take the Environmental Protection and Parks café.
“I’m all about taking care of the trees, and it’s been great information so far. I’ve learned a lot.”
Among the biggest challenges for Oregon’s Heather Zousel, Local 2376 (Council 75), who works in institutional records at Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in the coastal town of North Bend, Oregon, is how facilities like hers deal with mentally ill patients.
“We’re adapting to new policy changes and staffing shortages,” said Zousel, who added that “it was interesting to hear that we all have the same issues and challenges.”
The sector cafes offered a great way to collaborate, connect and return home fortified with new strategies.