As the first vice chair and special representative of the United Federation of Teachers paraprofessional chapter, Reggie Colvin advises members about their rights and gives them guidance and support. He visits schools and meets with fellow paras, and sits on committees relevant to paraprofessional issues. He also represents paras in grievance and discipline meetings.
Colvin is a UFT Executive Board member, a NYSUT and AFT delegate, UFT arbitration advocate, U-Rating Appellate, member of NYSUT's SRP Advisory and Health and Safety committees, and a 300 Member Negotiation team member.
1. What was the moment that made you realize your union was important?
When I first started out as a paraprofessional in special education. The administration had me doing so many things that were in violation of my contractual rights. After hearing me complain, a building rep approached me and introduced himself. He asked if he could assist me in resolving some of my issues, and I accepted. A grievance was filed on my behalf and I won.
2. How does the union make your life better?
The union makes my life better because of all the benefits and protections it provides me and my family. It's my living life insurance policy. I am protected 24/7.
3. School-Related Professionals' issues are an important part of your job and of the committees on which you serve. Why do you devote your time to these issues?
I believe in standing in the gap for all SRPs. By being part of the various committees, it is my obligation and my privilege to make sure that I am their voice. I wholeheartedly defend their rights, their benefits and all of their issues and concerns now and in the future.
4. School-Related Professionals are the heartbeat of our public schools. Why is union membership important for SRPs?
Union membership for SRPs is very important economically and with regard to workers' rights. There are many SRPs. Some locals are small and some are large in numbers. We are the backbone support of the educational field.
However, we may be looked at as easy prey to management so they may attempt to have us "do it their way or hit the highway" without any regard to our safety and rights. When that happens, belonging to the union really matters. We have someone to reach out to.
5. What would you tell someone who thinks that if you are good at your job you don't need to belong to a union?
You may be good at what you do, but all it takes is one small thing to go wrong and your whole world can start to fall apart. That's when you will need a union to stand by you. So my advice is don't leave home without it.