Linda O’Neal: I am a fighter for the people

Linda Oneal2My name is Linda O’Neal and ever since I was a young girl I loved to help people and make a difference in anyone’s life before making one in my own. This is why I have taken a leave of absence from the W Lakeshore Hotel where I work as a room service attendant to join The Contract Enforcement Team at the union.  

For those of you who are not familiar with The Contract Enforcement Team, we are in charge of enforcing our union contracts with the hotel and food service companies that Local 1 members work at. We also make sure that when someone files a grievance (complaint), we fight for them.

Grievance meetings are never easy. I remember my first meeting. You could tell how nervous I was by the sound of my voice. What really set fire under my foot was when management started talking about the members with disrespect. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I fought with grace and style, and that’s where I gained my confidence. I won and got the member’s job back.  

However, some fights cannot be resolved at the table when companies have violated our contracts. So, we take those cases to arbitration. Arbitration is just like court. Someone is a mediator like a judge. You have your prosecutors, which you can say are the companies and their expensive lawyers. Then, you have the defendants, which are us, the working people.

Being able to stand up to these companies makes me feel really good. Here I am, a room service attendant at a downtown hotel, fighting against these expensive corporate attorneys.  I am glad that I am able to do this because I want to inspire other members to be involved with the union and show them that the company doesn’t run the union — we do!

When you’re part of The Contract Enforcement Team your cell phone is on 24/7 and you work 40-70 hours a week. This is all worth it because I love to help other people. It’s like a saying in a Sylvester Stallone movie, “Saving a life is not taking a life of yours.” In other words, helping someone is not taking anything out of you.

Even when it’s tough, I try to give it my best because I am a fighter. Not only am I a single mother of three, but in 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to do radiation for three months while working at the hotel and volunteering at the union. When I would get home I would complain to my kids. Then, one day my children sat me down at the dinner table and told me, “Mom, you have cancer, it don’t have you.” Ever since then I’ve been determined to live a normal life.

I see myself working with The Contract Enforcement Team for a while. I feel that this is my calling and this is where I belong.  I want to keep fighting for worker’s rights at their jobs. Management better be ready for me, “The Snake Charmer.” Yes, you heard right: The Snake Charmer. The Contract Enforcement Team calls me this because out of all of us I am the one that most easily can persuade management to rule in our favor. So, bring it on!