CSEA retiree honored for activism


Ruby Thomas accepts CBTU’s President Award from CBTU Long Island Chapter President Alan Jennings.

CSEA Suffolk Retirees Local 920 Treasurer Ruby Thomas was recently honored at the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists’ (CBTU) Fall Gala for both her advocacy on behalf of CBTU and her tireless work in the community.

Thomas, fresh off of her 2019 Code of Conduct honor from the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, is one of CSEA’s best activists.
Although Thomas retired from her job at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in 2003, she never stopped caring for people in need.

Thomas currently works at Outreach Recovery Center, a nonprofit organization that provides substance abuse treatment and behavioral health services training.

The Long Island Reporter sat down with Thomas to discuss her history in activism.

Long Island Reporter (LIR): Congratulations on your latest honor. I’m sure it’s really flattering to be recognized for all of your hard work. What union and community activities are you dedicated to these days?

Ruby Thomas (RT): I am a trustee for CBTU’s Long Island Chapter, work on voter registration, various food and clothing drives and I’m an alcohol and drug counselor. I’m also a sergeant at arms for LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Achievement). I’m on the Suffolk Retirees Local 920 board, the Long Island Region Women’s Committee as well as the region Veterans Committee.

LIR: So, you’re not too busy [smile]. There are probably a few things that you’re forgetting.

RT: [laughs]Probably.

LIR: Have you always been one to take on a leadership role?

RT: Yes, since I was very young.

LIR: Really? How so?

RT: When I was a child, I helped the children in the neighborhood by teaching them things like how to build toys. We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up, so we had to invent games and build our own toys to entertain ourselves.

LIR: When did you get involved in CSEA activities?

RT: About 20 years ago. I didn’t like the way my employers would randomly change people’s shifts without considering seniority and childcare issues. I was one of the people who was affected by management’s actions.

LIR: What is your motivation to stay involved?

RT: My calling is to help other people. My parents always lent their help to people in our community; when they went out, my siblings and I went with them. I learned to be an activist by watching my parents.
LIR: Tell me more about the clients who you work with as an alcohol and drug counselor.

RT: I have a master’s degree in social work with a sub-specialty in substance abuse. Through my education and skills that I have honed over the years, I’ve learned that my clients need someone to validate them, which is why I remember their names and landmark days like their birthdays and sober days.

I also tell my clients that no one grows up thinking they’re going to be an alcoholic or a drug addict; it’s something that happened to them. They need to know that they have the option, and the power, to make changes in their lives that will help them in the future.

LIR: How does it make you feel that you’ve been able to help so many people over the years?

RT: Well, when I worked at Pilgrim [Psychiatric Center] one of the things that I noticed is that many of our clients were [facing mental illness]and addicted to substances, simultaneously.

At that time, after our clients’ psychosis was taken care of, they were released, but quickly found their way back to the facility because their substance abuse wasn’t addressed at the same time. That’s when I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree to learn how to help those with a dual diagnosis.

It’s amazing that no matter how bad their day, or night is, they always find their way back to treatment. I’ve run into clients on the street and they tell me how many years they have been sober. It’s rewarding to know that even though they’re no longer in treatment, they want to tell me how well they’re doing, whether they were my client or not.

LIR: What are your plans for the future?

RT: To do what I’ve been doing for as long as I possibly can.


About Author

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

Comments are closed.