Shawn Gray, Service Aide, Local 420
I believe in working for change. But in order for people to change, they have to start with self.
I was raised by my mom in Queensbridge Houses.
In my Park Slope North community, I volunteer to work to empower young men, to give the youth the tools I didn’t necessarily have growing up. I want them to avoid the mistakes I made. I let them know they can be leaders and think for themselves; they can rise above their environment.
I am a Service Aide for the Health and Hospitals Cook Chill plant in Brooklyn. We are the main kitchen and have the very important work of preparing and delivering meals to all public hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
We prepare over 100,000 meals a day for patients. Our food nourishes sick people to recovery. We maintain strict standards of cleanliness and food safety to avoid food-borne illnesses and contamination.
When our coworker Lawrence Bell died of a heart attack, Local 420 was there for his family. We catered his repast and Food Service Partners provided the food.
The union was here for us too with Personal Service Unit counselors to help us cope with his death. We met and talked about having insurance, naming beneficiaries and more. Bell’s passing made us closer.
I am a people person and I’m approachable. People talk to me about work issues. I let the Local 420 leadership and our rep Sallie Stallings know our concerns.
As part of the union’s 50K organizing initiative, I use the tools the union gives me to move members forward and boost morale.
I come to work early to engage, mobilize, educate and update my coworkers. I share union literature and invite them to events and workshops.
All 45 of us — 100 percent of the Cook Chill staff in Local 420 — are proud to be card-carrying union members. We have no agency-fee payers. None.
My kids keep me motivated and balanced. To be their role model means a lot.
For the last eight years, I’ve worked with the NYPD on a Community Day block party. Every September we bring people in the neighborhood together to build relationships—our youth, the Police Department, everybody.
Last summer I approached Food Service Partners and they came on board, providing food for the block party. They are committed to doing it again this summer and they see it’s a great cause.
My union is my passion. We stand tall for all. It allows me to do what I enjoy most— helping others.