The Story Behind the Picture: How a Non-Union Security Officer Became a Proud Union Leader

Smiles and happy tears aren’t uncommon following the taste of victory with a new contract or following a rousing speech at a rally. But, the story behind this photo is much deeper than the smile you see.

Smiles and happy tears aren’t uncommon following the taste of victory with a new contract or following a rousing speech at a rally. But, the story behind this photo is much deeper than the smile you see. In fact, Renee Randolph (pictured on the left) wasn’t always singing the union’s praises. Now, Renee is a proud 32BJ member. Getting her to become involved with the union took years and a lot of convincing from her co-workers. One of the women who encouraged Renee to give the union a chance is her friend Sharon Gray Newsome. This photo is of the two sharing a warm embrace this past September after Renee spoke at a contract rally for Pittsburgh security officers. When reflecting on the photo, Renee says, “I was glad Sharon was there to support. She’s a big influence and I’m glad to have her as my friend.”

Renee and Sharon have known each other for years. While they grew up in the same neighborhood, they really formed a friendship about 10 years ago working at 2 PNC in Pittsburgh. Sharon is a longtime union commercial office cleaner, while Renee was a non-union security officer. Their bond grew while on the job.

There were union commercial office cleaners in Pittsburgh for years, but the security industry remained non-union. When security officers first began organizing in Pittsburgh, Renee wanted nothing to do with the union. Renee would thwart every effort to join the union. “I wouldn’t give them the time or the day,” she says. Her apprehension for the union was due to unpleasant experiences in the past, and Renee thought all unions were the same.

After speaking with her co-workers and 32BJ members, Renee started to come around. Longtime member, Steve Kelley was the one who finally convinced Renee to join the union. “If it weren’t for Steve, I wouldn’t be in the union.” Renee and the nearly 1,000 officers finally got their first contract. Not only did Renee become a proud union member, she became a leader in her building and has spoken out at rallies and to the media. Members like Steve and Sharon were there for Renee giving her guidance and helping her understand her contract and about the inner workings of the union.

Renee says life is a little better since joining. She gets wage increases every year and she’s been able to put a little money aside to save. Changing her attitude, embracing the union and its benefits have definitely been a win-win for the woman who once vowed to have nothing to do with the union. Now that Renee is in 32BJ and it’s making a positive difference in her life, there’s no turning back for her. She truly does see the benefit of being stronger together.