Worker Picks Up Phone, Dials For Respect

AFSCME member Anshitu Foge and field rep Nur D. Nur
AFSCME member Anshitu Foge and field rep Nur D. Nur
When Anshitu Foge called AFSCME’s new Member Action Center for the first time, she was so scared, she was shaking. But she knew she had to speak up.
 
Her employer, Regions Hospital, told housekeeping it planned to boost their workloads and make them clean more rooms each day – moving from 12 rooms to 18 – in the same amount of time. Management also planned to adjust scheduling, which could interfere with days off. 
 
When workers kept asking how they could adequately clean so many rooms, a manager asked: “Did anybody force you to work at Regions?” Many of the people in housekeeping are immigrants. They were angry and scared. Foge reached out to her union for help.
 
“Why are they treating us like we are nothing?” Foge asks. “I’m angry, I’m not safe in that place, the way they’re talking. I need my job, I don’t want to lose my job.” 
 
She called the Member Action Center and said she had a problem at her workplace, but didn't know who to trust.
 
“We are your union,” field representative Nur D. Nur told the Local 722 member.  “We are on your side. You can trust us.”
 
“She was afraid, but she spoke up. Her demands were not too much: I need respect and dignity for the work I do,” says Nur, who brought special understanding to Foge’s situation. He was born in Somalia and is a longtime human rights advocate, especially for workers. He also has worked everywhere from a distribution center to sanitation, experiencing mistreatment himself.
 
“Although immigrants deal with problems in workplaces, work issues do not have ethnicity,” Nur says. “Corporations or employers always try to manipulate people for their own interests. If people don’t know their rights in this country, no one will tell them. Their employer will not educate them on their rights.”
 
Nur got in touch with the AFSCME field representative for Regions, who is scheduling a listening session with an interpreter to hear workers’ concerns, and then will present those concerns to Regions' management.
 
Foge's phone call already has led to change. Managers dropped plans to adjust time off.  She hopes they'll decrease the 18-room workload so she can keep doing her job with great pride, as she has for 10 years now. She came to the U.S. from Ethiopia to make a better life for her family. 
 
“I love my job,” Foge says. “When you work in a hospital, you are helping people. You’re helping yourself, but you’re helping people. I want to do my job right. It makes me happy.  That is my house. I need to be taking care of it.”