We have to work together so we’re able to keep the things we have, like our health care and other benefits.

~ Jay Etheridge, 32BJ Member, New York

Shirley Newell: Fighting for What We Deserve


For over 12 years Shirley has worked for the Trenton School District with children of all ages. When she describes what she does on a daily basis, it is always dependent on the time of day, the day of the week or the activities that are going on in the school. She is on her toes prepping, checking deliveries to make sure the food is properly sealed and refrigerated, ensuring the kids are being fed and her coworkers have all the support they need, “I don’t mind jumping into the trenches and getting my hands dirty, literally!”

Her day starts at 6:30AM every day. Sometimes earlier when there is a delivery coming in and officially her day ends at 3PM, but that is just on paper. She is a shop steward so after her day is over she might be meeting with her coworkers, or going to an action with the union, at her church for an activity or taking care of her 6 year old grandchild. Shirley is a single mom. Her two sons have finished college and when she reflects on how she got it done; how she stretched her paycheck enough to pay the bills she says “She relied on God.”

In 2011 when 32BJ was introduced to the workers she felt she understood what the union was about. “I was so passionate because I wanted us to get what we deserved and not just what management wanted to give.” Shirley is actively working with the union. She is part of the planning committee for the yearly Schools Convention and she is currently on a security brigade in NJ organizing workers. Being involved in all of these pieces with the union is what she loves. “I am interested in the research and the problem solving because I want people to be informed to make better choices in their lives.”


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Shirley Newell: Fighting for What We Deserve
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