Meet Valley Area Organizer Stephanie Smith

By Kelly Hartog

Stephanie Smith is steeped in union values. She’s been a 911 operator with the LAPD and a 3090 member from the first day she was hired by the City of  Los Angeles 21 year ago. Prior to that, Smith worked for United Airlines  for 10 years, first as a reservations agent and then as a customer service representative, up until 9/11. As a result of the furloughs following that fateful day, she had the ability to transfer from one union job to another and she moved on to the LAPD.  

Working for United, “That was my first experience with the union,” she said, “and I saw how they fought for you because of 9/11. They allowed for an indefinite recall for about 22,000 employees during those furloughs.” In addition, she said, they allowed employees to apply for other union positions if they were willing to relocate within California. “I was in Ontario, CA, and I was fortunate enough to move over to LAPD.” 

Raised in Chicago, Smith’s parents were also union members – her mother with the airlines and her father as a bus driver. As the Valley area organizer for the last three years, Smith said of her decision to undertake the position, “I believe in power in numbers and my parents have always taught me the union can stand up for you. I want to be the voice for people and fight for fair wages and fairness throughout the city.” 

Smith is grateful for her job within the city and what it and 3090 offer her. “Coming in [to work for] the city, the most important thing for me was job security,” she said. “I watched  so many companies not able to survive after the 2008 [recession], and I felt that thanks to the union – although we hadn’t seen raises, which is what we’re fighting for right now – we still had employees that were able to keep their jobs even after the pandemic. I know that we do still have a long way to go. I just feel that I have an opportunity to have job security as well as grow within the city.”  

And, as a woman of color in the city, Smith said she has seen opportunity and growth within her career. “Right from the beginning of walking into LAPD, I saw female blacks as supervisors within communications that let me know right there that I had an opportunity to grow within my career.”  

In her union role, Smith is determined to ensure that 3090 becomes more visible to members, and she is committed to bringing in the younger generation. “There are a lot of younger people that may not look at the importance of a union and how a union can fight for you,” she said. “And I believe that with our board, we’re looking to make that change.”  

Becoming the coordinator right before the pandemic hit, “I wasn’t able to go out there and make my voice be heard and speak especially to the new hires,” Smith said. “Just showing  [the younger generation] the importance of the union’s power in numbers, letting your voice be heard, is my main goal. Reaching out to them, letting them know, “This is for you. You have to carry this on.” 

That mission is extremely important to Smith, she said, “Because a lot of the older generations, we are retiring and I don’t believe that the union’s prepared for the number of retirements that they’re faced with at this time. So that’s my main goal. To move it forward and train the next generation.”

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