Who We Are

Who We Are
Syracuse university - 2008

A performance about the lives and work of 8 members of Local 200, Service Employees International Union at Syracuse University, and performed by the members themselves.

Working with the custodians, food service and maintenance workers, gave a forty minute performance about their lives and work. The project was so well received, many of the union participants continue to meet to develop their stories into another performance. The original performance is now a part of First Year Student Orientation Week at SU. After viewing excerpts of the performance at a Labor & Arts Symposium, Chancellor Nancy Cantor reversed a long-standing policy of hiring nonunion construction companies, a policy the union had been fighting to win for years.

My name is Gert Danzy. I'm 1⁄2 Black, 1⁄2 Cherokee Indian and 1/8 white. I was born and raised in Syracuse. My name is Gert Danzy. In terms of my life, as far as I'm concerned - Martin Luther King came and saved us. I read at a 1st grade level up until 7th grade when a teacher took an interest in me and taught me to read. And I can tell you it was almost too late. Now I'm a union steward. My great uncle Richard was a janitor at SU. I've been here since 1994. For my 10th anniversary here, I picked that little blue & white cooler. I love it. It's deeper than you might think it is... like me. I started working here 25 years ago and have been a janitor at Steel Hall for one year now. For my years of service - I've received two watches – the first was a TIMEX. I dropped it and it stopped running. The second one I'm being more careful with. What do I know after 25 years? I continue to appreciate all the benefits the university offers. The pay isn't all that great but the benefits are good. Remitted tuition helped my children go to college – one even got an Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts. And before Doug introduces himself - I'd like to say Douglas McClure. HVAC TECH since '96. Basically I work anywhere the students eat, sleep and study. We keep people cold in the summer and hot in the winter. So if it's burning hot outside... I'm on the roof sweating my butt off and if it's icy cold... I'm up on the roof freezing my butt off. Billy Brown. My nickname is The Prick. And I don’t mind telling ya – because I am. But my work speaks for itself. I take pride in my work. I am a perfectionist. I don't really fit in to what they call the Heroic Environment here. That means you can't call somebody out. You can't yell at them. You can't tell them to step it up because it might hurt their feelings. Hell, my own dad told me that I was too stupid to be an electrician like him so I'd better be a carpenter.  Been a carpenter ever since. My boss here told me "I'm glad to have one of you but I wouldn't want ten." Rebecca Vincent. My first day of work here was February of 2001. I started out as a temp. Now I'm a custodian. This year I was elected Chief Steward for Custodial, representing all custodial workers. I've been in Food Service - Housing - Crew Leader South Campus – Out of the Commissary – Freezer – Climbing Shelves – Back to Housing – Food Services – Back to Housing – now Custodial. As your family changes, you have to change. Derrick Campbell – Derrick Campbell, like the soup. Been here going on 8 years. Food Service. Pizza Maker. Cook. Cook helper. Floater. I did it all. But I made my name as the Pizza King. Now I’m a custodian at Hoople, North Zone. Sometimes you got to go if you're going to grow. My name is Lonnie Reeder. I was born in 1924 in Alabama. Started working here at Syracuse in '73 in the Grounds Department – then after 6 months General Maintenance for the last 35 years. Never had a sick day until last month when they took me home with a 108 temperature for two days.
My favorite job is helping somebody. Don Wright, Musician. Custodial, Flint Hall, 20 years Scott Peterson. SEIU, Syracuse Local 200 United staff. Cast: Tish Price, Rebecca Vincent, Lonnie Reeder, Gert Danzy, Doug McClure