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September 2016

 

"Hey, this union stuff works"
Susan Rubenstein DeMasi

 

The responsibility of a union ranges from protecting members’ rights to enhancing working conditions. In order to fulfill such a wide-ranging mission, it is imperative to remain fiscally secure and financially accountable. Over the last 26 years this responsibility rested in the able hands of Joyce Gabriele. In anticipation of her retirement from the college next January, she retired from the position of FA treasurer this past May.

Her dedication to union activism began almost accidently. It was the early 1970s and Joyce worked as an adjunct librarian at Ammerman. One summer when she didn’t get the overload she’d requested (and to which she was entitled to due to seniority), one of the full-time librarians suggested she call the union. She did, and the grievance officer helped resolve the problem. With that one action, Joyce said, “Hey, this union stuff works.”

She called it a “watershed moment in terms of learning what the union could do to help its members on a personal level.” Joyce wanted to give back. She became active in the union beginning as an adjunct and continued when she became a full-time librarian (after ten years as an adjunct) at the Grant Campus and into the present.

Soon after going full time she won a seat as an Executive Council representative. Although we are lucky now to have a stable relationship with the administration, that wasn't always true. At one point the union prepared for a strike. During contentious negotiations, the union moved off the college campus, and Joyce organized a strike headquarters. The strike was averted but organizing the headquarters, Joyce said, gave her the “full effect of what it means to be part of a union—the feeling of working together for a cause.” Shortly after that the FA treasurer prepared to retire and began training Joyce for the position.

During her first year as treasurer, in 1990, the IRS decided to audit the union. Talk about trial by fire. Additionally, the systems were not yet computerized and moving from paper to electronics represented a vast change. She credits John Gannon for helping her to make this behind-the-scenes transition. Taking the finances of the union into the electronic future was indeed part of her legacy as treasurer. When the Benefit Fund was created fifteen years ago, Joyce became treasurer of that as well.

Like her predecessor, Joyce began training a new treasurer before her actual retirement. Maureen Arma (Corporate Training) is now in that position.

Although Joyce loves her job and felt gratified watching over the union’s fiscal stability, she has no qualms about retiring. “As great as this job is, there are limitations.” The impetus was her three-year-old granddaughter. When her granddaughter was born, Joyce realized that she didn't want to be locked into a schedule that would cause her to miss her granddaughter’s milestone moments.

She will use her newfound free time to get back to another love: music. She was a music major in college and is an accomplished pianist. Additionally, she’d like to do more traveling.  

With the union’s finances in excellent condition, Joyce is ready. “I feel like I left it in a good place. I was ready to hand it off.” Our best wishes to Joyce for reaching her own personal milestone.