APEA’s Ryan Marquis (Kenai) and LuAnn Powers (Juneau) have been selected as AFT Everyday Hero semifinalists. The online voting for the semifinalists is now underway here and will continue through April 29. Anyone can vote for a semifinalist, and you can vote for both Ryan and LuAnn in their respective divisions.
Semifinalists from each AFT division have been chosen, representing teachers, PSRPs, higher education staff and faculty, healthcare professionals, public employees and retirees. The semifinalist who gets the most votes in each division will be named his or her division’s 2012 Everyday Hero and will be honored at this year’s AFT convention.
Ryan Marquis (AFT Public Employees)
Lead Maintenance Supply Specialist, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska
Kenai Borough Employees Association, Local 6140
Ryan Marquis does what he does because that’s who he is. “For me, it is not a great sacrifice because I really love what I do,” says Marquis. What Marquis doesn’t realize, however, is that his work inspires others, including his nominator. Marquis is lead maintenance supply specialist for Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska. He got the job and became a union member at a pivotal point: All public employees hired on or after July 1, 2006, like Marquis, were placed in a defined-contribution retirement program.
Marquis was all too familiar with the outrage over the conversion from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan. He had been working for the borough as a temporary employee while his full-time colleagues and their statewide parent union, the Alaska Public Employees Association, were trying to stop the law from being implemented. So when a position opened on the APEA’s Employee Political Information Committee, Marquis expressed interest—and got the seat. “I was baptized by fire, so to speak,” says Marquis, noting that he felt a duty to get involved in the union and its political fights because “I watched the people who were secure in their retirement fighting for those who were not. I couldn’t sit by and let those people fight my fight.”
That’s the attitude Marquis took to Wisconsin following Gov. Scott Walker’s ambush on public employees and their unions last year. “I think anyone who has a passion for the labor movement saw what was going on in Wisconsin and knew that Wisconsin needed help,” says Marquis, who volunteered for two separate stints in Wisconsin. “If this can happen in Wisconsin, the birthplace of the public union movement, this can happen anywhere.” Marquis, who became vice president of his local last year, also serves on the Kenai City Council and is a part-time college student working toward a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. “It feels weird to be recognized for doing something that you love so much,” says Marquis. “Anytime I can help someone, that is reward and recognition enough for me.”
LuAnn Powers (AFT Healthcare)
School Nurse, Auke Bay Elementary School, Juneau, Alaska
Juneau Education Support Staff, Local 6096
It’s been a challenging year for school nurse LuAnn Powers. It started with a plan crafted by administrators in her school district to eliminate six of 10 school nurses—a move that would leave four school nurses to care for 5,000 children in the Juneau, Alaska, school district. “Our nurses need roller skates as it is,” says Powers, who has been a school nurse at Auke Bay Elementary School in Juneau for 10 years. “To lose more than half of the nursing staff would severely limit the medical services for students.”
Last year, Powers became the first nationally certified school nurse in the Juneau School District. The process for earning national certification is similar to what teachers go through to earn their national certification. Going through the process “made me think more about the role of the school nurse,” says Powers. “It opened my eyes that much more about how important it is for us to be in the schools.” That’s one reason why Powers didn’t hesitate to get involved when she learned that the school district was considering cutting school services. Powers, along with her school nurse colleagues, worked closely with their union, the Alaska Public Employees Association, to craft a strategy to fight the school district’s plan. She testified before the school board about the work of the school nurse and encouraged parents to testify as well. “Using my voice is one of things I’ve learned from the union,” says Powers. “If you don’t speak up for yourself then you’re not going to get anywhere.”
The efforts of Powers and her colleagues swayed the school board to cut only two school nurse positions instead of six. It will be a challenge to figure out how to best serve the children with fewer nurses, she says, “but we will make it work. We have to.” In the meantime, Powers will try to find ways to improve the delivery of healthcare in the schools. “I’ve always strived to be the best school nurse I can be, and I will continue to do that.” As for her nomination as an AFT Everyday Hero, Powers says this: “I find it hard to see myself in that light when I am surrounded by everyday heroes who help make my job easier and so enjoyable.”