Bonnie Brown is senior video acquisitions and reference assistant at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University. She was interviewed by Christopher Crowe, vice president of the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff. Crowe is a member of NYSUT's SRP Advisory Committee.
Tell me about your job and why you love what you do.
One of the highlights of working here is getting to meet and work with so many different people whose range of interests and influences contribute greatly to our media library. I am fortunate enough to work closely with this diverse group of professors, students and staff members, and their input has been a crucial part of our feature film and documentary collection (more than 45,000 DVDs). Collaborating, in support of their teaching and research needs, has helped [the catalog] grow into the comprehensive collection of feature films, performances and documentaries that it is today and I'm proud of that.
How did you get involved in your union?
I have been a supporter of unions ever since my mom (who looks a lot like Sally Field) watched the film "Norma Rae" with me many years ago on television. I didn't really know much about unions before then but the film certainly piqued my interest. I started to pay attention especially after learning that my great-grandmothers had worked in factories in Lowell, Mass., where the "factory girls" set up some of the first unions in the United States in the 1800s. We wouldn't have many of our rights today without our unions.
I first became involved with mine after standing up for a colleague who was being treated unfairly. This didn't make me popular with management and when they began to target me the union stepped in to help with my defense. With their assistance, the support of my colleagues, and the help of two courageous NYU student workers who had witnessed many of the supervisors' misdeeds, we were fairly successful and the situation for all of us has improved.
After this experience, I became a more active union member, doing leafleting, stuffing envelopes, etc. I was recently a delegate to the NYSUT Representative Assembly for the first time. I also recently contributed my first article to the UCATS newsletter, Momentum, about my experience and I plan to contribute more.
How do you make a difference?
I believe in justice and fair treatment. I very much believe that if you know someone is being treated badly or unfairly, then you should try to be there for them in the same way you hope they would for you. I didn't always think that was something I would ever have to worry about because everything had been going fine for me. However, things continued to get worse for my colleague. In order to remain diplomatic, especially when we are getting along fine, we sometimes don't stand up for others when it is the right time to do so. I regret my lag in doing so at the time. But I did find out the hard way why most of us don't.
How about community activities?
My passion is for the environment, human rights/animals rights and community service, all of which require solidarity and organization just like unions. Without a safe place in which to live and work, all other rights will simply become irrelevant.
I am currently the chair of the Sustainability Committee at the Bobst Library, a volunteer for the Community Service Committee, as well as an ocean activist and an environmental and animal rights activist. I have been an onshore volunteer for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society since 2010 and have attended many educational events, protests and activist meet-ups on how best to protect our planet and ALL of its inhabitants. To me, each and every day is an opportunity to show respect and care for our planet, which sustains us all.