Multicultural and Gender Studies

Mia Colación

Class of 2019
Women's Studies BA
Life since graduation has been a time of tremendous growth, but I couldn't be more proud of where I am. I am extremely grateful to have found a job that allows me to take the skills and knowledge I have developed through the MCGS program and apply them within the workforce daily. I am so passionate about what I do and I love being able to use the privilege of my education to help others.
I am currently working as a Labor Relations Representative for the California School Employees Association (CSEA). CSEA is the largest classified labor union in the nation and we represent classified public school employees (from pre-k to Community College). You can think of classified employees as the "support staff" in the public school system. They are your bus drivers, custodians, groundskeepers, food service pupils, paraeducators, clerical, nursing assistants, pre-school aides, etc.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, our work as a union has become more important than ever. When most people think about essential employees during this time, they instantly think of healthcare staff, delivery workers, etc. Often times the essential employees who are working every single day to keep the school districts running are overlooked by the general public. 
For example, the Maintenance & Operations departments have been cleaning all school sites/district offices, ensuring all PPE equipment is fully stocked, and continuing to maintain the grounds of each site. Similarly, the Food Service departments have been preparing meals and distributing them to the local community members. Just last week, the Food Service department in one of the chapters I represent served over 43,000 meals. I always say that classified employees are the backbones of their communities. Whenever an emergency strikes they are the first ones to respond and the last ones to be dismissed from working in those conditions. The worst part of all of this is that while you and I would look at the work these individuals are performing and agree without hesitation that they deserve additional compensation, school districts would disagree. Keep in mind most of these employees are part time (Districts keep them as part time so they don't have to give them benefits and make barely over minimum wage).
This is where my job comes in. I have been negotiating with the Districts I am assigned to work with to try and secure agreements that would protect our classified staff. Things I am currently fighting for are additional hazard pay for out essential staff, compensation for those who have to work during their Spring Break, COVID-19 safety trainings for those who are still reporting to work, etc. The list truly goes on and on and each week it seems like there is a new protection we have to advocate for.
Overall, my job as a representative revolves around three main components: 1.) Negotiations, 2.) Representation, and 3.) Organizing. In the labor world, all things related to hours, wages, and working conditions are negotiable. I am assigned to represent 5 different chapters and I negotiate their contracts and other written agreements. The contract is what goes over the rights of classified employees per each school district (ex: sick leave, transfers, discipline, pay, health benefits, safety, etc.). When I am not at the table negotiating with my teams, I am typically representing individuals (this could be accomodations for an injury/disability, representing a member during a disciplinary meeting to ensure their rights/Due Process is being protected, filing grievances/other formal charges, and enforcing labor law. Lastly, is the organizing/activism piece that I do. In an ideal world, when union members and their employers meet at the table to negotiate a raise or benefits, the employer would just do the right thing. Unfortunately, that never happens and the way we get the school districts to do a fair wage increase is by rallying. Together, with the chapter leadership, I develop an organizing plan and escalation tactics. We do things like pass out infographics to community members to bring awareness of the mistreatment, rally/speak out at school board meetings, write to state/local government officials, and even sometimes tip off the local media.
With all that being said, I could not imagine doing the work I do without my background in MCGS. Knowing how to work with diverse populations is essential to my job. Whether it is race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, gender, etc.- it all factors in. I work with many vulnerable populations and I would not be able to connect with my members or resolve their problems appropriately without having the awareness/understanding of different identities I have developed through my MCGS major. 
Portrait of Mia Colación