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Mentors Training Next Generation of Union Leaders

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When Royetta Sanford retired as director of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) Human Services Department, she did not stop working to improve the lives of working people. Instead, she has begun to train the next generation of union leaders.

Sanford has volunteered to share her knowledge and experience to mentor Carrie Meyers-Herron, a recipient of the Union Leaders of the Future Scholarship.

Says Sanford:

I’m mentoring because I feel it is one of the only ways we can move forward getting women and minorities in the mainstream of the labor movement.

This is a great, well-organized program with some real bright talent, a lot of people with capacity to be good leaders. I want to give back to the movement and do whatever I can to make it stronger and more diverse.

Royetta Sanford, left, is mentoring future union leader Carrie Meyers-Herron, right.
Royetta Sanford, left, is mentoring future union leader Carrie Meyers-Herron, right.

The future leaders scholarship helps active union members who are women or people of color gain skills and knowledge to move into union leadership. Providing annual rewards of up to $3,000, the scholarship program is sponsored by the Union Plus Education Foundation, an arm of Union Privilege.

Meyers-Herron, a member of AFT Local 2665 in Palatine Bridge, N.Y., and president of the Galway (N.Y.) Central School District’s teachers association, says:

It’s nice to be hooked up with a mentor who has done union work for so long. She reassures me.

Meyers-Herron, who met Sanford for the first time in September, hopes to take master’s level courses in labor relations. She will stay in contact with Sanford monthly on balancing tasks and getting her perspective on issues facing teachers in a time of tightening budgets.

Sanford is one of 12 experienced union leaders who agreed to mentor the scholarship winners.

The others are:

  • Transport Workers President James Little.
  • MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO.
  • Christine Trujillo, president, New Mexico AFT
  • Sharon Cornu, executive secretary-treasurer, Alameda (Calif.) Labor Council.
  • RaeLene Brown, secretary-treasurer of the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Central Labor Council in Modesto, Calif.
  • Davida Russell, president, AFSCME Local 744 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
  • Connie Cordovilla of the AFT Human Rights and Community Relations Department.
  • David Carpio of the AFL-CIO Political Department.
  • Mary Finger, retired vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
  • May Ying Chen, retired vice president of Workers United.
  • Greg Hamblet, retired vice president of UFCW.

Since 1992, Union Plus has awarded more than $2.8 million in scholarships. This year 13 unionists representing 10 unions received more than $33,000 in scholarships.

*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO Blog on December 30, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris


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