Chief Steward Lucille Miller is retiring after nearly two decades of state service.
Lucille joined UConn Health as a medical technologist in the blood bank June 2000. Her activism with UHP started with the negotiating team in August 2001. Before long she was a union rep and steward. In 2004 she won a special election to become first vice president. She was re-elected in 2006, then defeated in 2008. She then took a position outside of the bargaining unit. She rejoined Lab Medicine in 2013 and returned to the steward committee. In 2015 Lucille was elected chief steward, and was re-elected in 2017.
Her retirement is effective at the end of her term, June 30. Her successor is former UHP President Jean Morningstar, who returns to the UHP Executive Committee in the role of chief steward July 1.
Lucille agreed to share some thoughts in a brief “exit interview.”
What inspired you to become a union activist?
My brother-in-law, who was also a state employee, gave me the best advice anyone could ever receive as a new union employee. He said, "Learn your rights under the union contract, and the best way to do that is to join the negotiating team when they form one for negotiating your contract." Well, I took his advice!
After losing a re-election bid for first vice president in 2008, your story takes a unique turn. How did you end up on “other side of the table,” and why?
Rather than returning to Lab Medicine, I applied for and was chosen for a position in Labor Relations as a labor relations specialist. Although I was not in the union at this point, my union background gave me the skills necessary to fairly deal with labor issues.
What does the labor movement mean to you?
The labor movement has always meant fairness to me. During the many conventions that I attended I learned about issues facing public employees, teachers and health care workers. It made me proud to be a part of this larger union that continued to organize and fight for us - always for better working conditions. I learned about the history of unions and how hard those first activists fought, and often lost their lives, just to get the basic benefit of a 40-hour work week.
During one of the AFT national conventions, the huge convention hall was dark and we were watching a union made movie called "The Power of One" on a jumbo screen. It showed the one man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, China. The film ended, the room went dark and when the lights came on, there he was standing on stage. The room exploded with cheers and clapping for this man who stood up for democracy against a communist government. I will never forget that moment.
What makes you hopeful or concerned about the future of UHP or the labor movement in general?
After the Friedrichs and Janus court cases, I am concerned about more union-busting antics from people who want to wipe out the many years of work done by union activists to secure safe working conditions, reasonable hours and fair salaries and benefits for all workers. As members, you don't always know what goes on behind the scenes to preserve your rights under the contract and to keep the unions intact. Your UHP officers, representatives, stewards and activists are a strong, hard-working group of people who are fiercely fighting to not lose ground. Please join them. YOU are the UNION, stay together to keep it strong. Don't let all that our predecessors fought for slip away.
What are you looking forward to in retirement?
Although I will miss defending our union contract and representing the members of UHP, I look forward to retirement from state service. I am involved with many volunteer and mission projects. I will spend my time with family and friends and will fill the gaps with knitting, making greeting cards and camping with my husband Scott and pug Samwise. Basically, I will do what I want, when I want.
Peace and blessings to all.
UHP thanks Lucille for her service to the state and to our union, and wishes her a happy and healthy retirement!