COMMACK — Kim Lewis is one of the CSEA Suffolk Area Retirees Local’s newest, and possibly most passionate, members.
After 23 years of working at the state Long Island Developmental Disabilities Services Office (LIDDSO) and serving nearly that many years as a CSEA shop steward, Lewis knew it was finally time to rest on her laurels and retire.
Even so, she has no intentions of stopping her union activities. In fact, she’s just getting started.
Lewis credits her CSEA membership with putting her in the position to retire comfortably and successfully put her daughter through school.
Lewis first became a CSEA member when the then Long Island Developmental Disabilities Services Office Local President, Willie Allen, stopped by her work location for a routine visit with members.
“Willie explained to the workers the value of being a CSEA member,” said Lewis. “Had he not gone out on that visit, I would’ve never known about CSEA.”
Being greeted by someone with a pleasant disposition was also encouraging.
“He was so positive and had so much enthusiasm about CSEA,” said Lewis. “He was really like sunshine in the dark. His energy made me want to sign up.”
Lewis did not know it at the time, but she would soon need to call on our union for guidance.
“I had a supervisor who was being mentally and physically aggressive with me,” said Lewis. “I was ready to quit my job because it was becoming too much.”
Allen walked her through the grievance process, addressed her supervisor and the supervisor’s behavior stopped.
“When my local president stood up for me, I could see that I was part of something important,” said Lewis. “That experience is what made me want to become a shop steward. I could see that there was a greater purpose – to help people.”
Lewis also received personal fulfillment from her activism.
“I was proud to be able to help my colleagues,” said Lewis. “Even in my retirement, I’m still getting calls from members about the contract and I’m happy to help them.”
With her membership in the Suffolk Area Retirees Local, Lewis hopes to build on her career in activism by becoming a representative at CSEA information days for the CSEA Retiree Division and the PEOPLE Program, which Lewis is very passionate about.
“Just because I’m retired from my job doesn’t mean I’m retired from being a union member,” said Lewis. “I’m always going to be a part of CSEA.”
When members ask about the importance of union membership, Lewis replies, “You need it.”
“Instead of taking your money and spending it at a restaurant, spend that money on your membership dues,” said Lewis. “When I go to the doctor or go to the drugstore to fill a prescription, people can’t believe that I have a pension or that my medical insurance is so good. I tell them, ‘You can have it, too. All you have to do is join CSEA.’”
— Wendi Bowie
If you are planning to retire soon, stay union through membership in a CSEA Retiree Local. To learn more and download a membership application, visit cseany.org/retirees.