Ebony Howard had never been in a union before, but in May 2012, when she accepted a job at the Schnucks Pharmacy Warehouse in Bridgeton, she says she immediately had a sense of security and a feeling that her workaday world would finally be one of confidence, trust and open communication.
“Being a member of Local 655 has given me the security I never had at other companies. I never had the strength of a union behind me,” Howard said. “It’s always good to have someone on your side, when you don’t have the strength or courage to talk with management yourself.”
Last month, Howard’s enthusiasm and drive for her union was recognized by the officers of Local 655 as she was elected to the union’s Executive Board, as a vice-president.
“It feels awesome to be on the Executive Board. I love politics, and to me it feels like I’m on the Supreme Court of the union,” Howard said. “I’m humbled and shocked, but I’m glad it’s me. I want to bring my energy and spark new discussions.”
Howard, 23, the youngest board member ever elected, says as an African American woman she also hopes to help break down barriers and attract more young workers to union involvement. “I like being able to help my co-workers and help people in general to make sure everyone is treated fairly,” Howard said. “I like the family feel of it. If you fall, someone will help you up, and I want all Local 655 members to have the same experience.
Nobody is better than the next, nobody should come to work and be miserable.” Howard says she is proud to serve on the Executive Board, but, she says she knows she has a long way to go. She said she realizes she will have to prove herself, but wants all members to know that they are always welcome at the Union Hall and are always urged to contact officers or their shop steward about issues.
“Solidarity and involvement is a big part of being in the union, and being a Local 655 member gives you a voice,” Howard said. “We stand together to make sure our quality of living isn’t impacted in negative ways.”
Howard, who also became a shop steward in August, said at her previous job, she never felt compensated for her hard work. She says with the strength of the union behind her, she knows that she will be treated fairly and will get her raises and benefits regularly—not on a whim, as is the practice in most companies without a union.
“I don’t know where I’ll go with Schnucks, but I can’t leave this place until I make it a better place. My co-workers are already coming to me, because it’s all about trust. I want to set an example and let my fellow union members know that I will be on top of the true things I know are important to us.”