A Commitment to Serve
Former Grand Lodge Representative Maria Santiago Lillis was a tireless mentor and fierce advocate for workers’ rights, human rights and social justice, tackling the most contentious issues with grace, while treating everyone with dignity and respect. In order to continue her mentorship and legacy and to encourage all representatives to emulate the extraordinary qualities she exhibited as an IAM representative, the Executive Council has instituted the “Maria Santiago Lillis Advocacy Day – A Commitment to Serve (ACTS).” ACTS will take place each year on August 10, which was Sister Lillis’ birthday. Each year on this day, we will engage in activities to strengthen our commitment to serve and to learn from Representatives who mirror Sister Lillis’ dedication, advocacy, compassion and fairness.
“The goal of this day will be to highlight a member who exemplifies the qualities that made Sister Lillis an outstanding advocate for working families,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Sister Lillis’ work has left an indelible mark on the labor movement, which will forever live on in the lives of those who carry on the hard work with compassion, dedication and grace in her name. The IAM owes sister Lillis a debt of gratitude.”
“Maria’s greatest gift was her gentle grace and understanding no matter the situation,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “Maria always had a keen understanding of how to care for people with compassion and a heart of gold. Everyone knew that Maria was a champion of justice and fair play – all you had to do was talk to her for a few minutes, and you felt her love and support. Her mentoring never stopped! She touched so many, and we will always keep her memory alive through a call to service – may God bless Maria and the Union she loved and served – the IAM.”
Five-Day Reading Challenge
Sister Lillis’s tenacious advocacy for members and working people always involved a deep understanding of the intricacies of the various personalities on display in any situation, coupled with sincere compassion for the members involved. This type of effective advocacy requires being mindful of the fact that we do not all come to the workplace with the same life experiences. A White woman from St. Louis, a Black man from Flagstaff, a gay man from Boston, a Hispanic woman from El Paso, and a Muslim man from Montreal, each have different life experiences that shape how they view the world. But our goal of obtaining justice on the job for all of them is united. The question is, do we approach each person with true understanding and respect for their particular backgrounds? Do we appreciate how their circumstances shape how they view the situation? Since we naturally bring our own assumptions about people with us when interacting with them, how do we ensure that we truly hear their needs when representing them?
This five-day reading challenge takes on our own implicit biases. It addresses the fact that we each carry the baggage of our own life experiences with us and naturally see the world through that lens. Each article challenges us to broaden our perspectives. Open ourselves to a different worldview. Understand that our members may have experiences different from our own, which shape how they are approaching workplace issues.
The more we recognize our own preconceived assumptions and the more we are open to the multitude of other experiences out there, the better equipped we will be to understand how to most compassionately and effectively represent each of our members. This Sister Lillis understood.
Take the five-day reading challenge with others who you work with or join us at 4 p.m. ET each day to discuss that day’s selections. See if you learn something new about representing people who may have different characteristics than yourself.
DAY ONE – Wednesday, August 11, 2021
- Caroline Preston, “‘You don’t say things’: The jobs where sexual harassment and discrimination never stopped.”Available here.
- Is the industry you work in typically considered to be a “male” job or a “female” job?
- Are more people entering the field and breaking the gender barriers?
- What steps can the union take to make it easier for them to do so?
- In what ways would the workplace improve if it were more balanced between people of all gender identities? In what ways would society benefit?
DAY TWO – Thursday, August 12, 2021
- Aiko Bethea, “An Open Letter to Corporate America, Philanthropy, Academia, etc.: What Now?” Available here.
- Kira Hudson Banks and Richard Harvey, “Is Your Company Actually Fighting Racism, or Just Talking About It?” Available here.
- Do you see elements of these issues in your workplace? How is it addressed?
- What can you do to elevate and address these issues in the workplace?
- What about within your Lodge? What additional steps could your Lodge take to fight racism in the Union?
DAY THREE – Friday, August 13, 2021
- USA Today, “Gender identity and sex: Find out how they differ based on science and spectrum,” Available here (2 minute video).
- S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Protections Against Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” Available here.
- How has your workplace addressed the rights of LGBTQI persons?
- How would you handle a member who wanted to file a grievance because they were opposed to a gender-neutral bathroom?
- Should the labor movement still use the terminology “brothers and sisters?” Is “siblings” a better alternative?
DAY FOUR – Monday, August 16, 2021
- Danielle Cadet, “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not.” Available here.
- How did your workplace respond to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter events that followed? How did your Lodge respond to those events?
- Is there more you can do to demonstrate compassion for your colleagues of color? Is there more you can do to encourage compassion from others?
DAY FIVE – Tuesday, August 17, 2021
- Decoded, MTV News, “If Microaggressions Happened to White People.” Available here (2 minute, 40 second video).
- Heben Nigatu, “21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis.” Available here.
- While the video is humorous, it is only because it is so outrageous to believe people would talk that way. However, people talk that way every day to people of color. Did you recognize phrases you have heard at work or at the Lodge but directed to people of color?
- How can you step in when you hear people using these microaggressions?
- How can we check ourselves to make sure we aren’t engaging in this behavior?
- How do we raise these issues without making people afraid to talk to people who are different from themselves?