URI staffer named top ESP

Linda Lowe burst on the scene in her URI ESP local a mere two years ago. Now she's the 2016 NEARI Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. Lowe is a super-charged, gung-ho type of leader who feeds on union fights for pay equity, just treatment, and respect.

A 29-year employee of URI and a 10-year member of NEARI, Lowe began attending union meetings on campus in 2012, discharging vacation time to do so since her work schedule did not coincide with the lunchtime gatherings. The former president was getting ready to retire, and there was no one to step in. Although Lowe had no prior experience, she felt that a fully-involved union was imperative for the protection and advancement of her fellow employees.

"I knew it was a giant learning curve, but felt it was so important that I had to give it a try," she said. "Every chance I get I take whatever training there is available, like the skills I learned from the NEA and NEARI organizing institutes. It's definitely tough to organize such a large group in four locations, and hard to get people involved. I'm just the new kid, but I keep going."

I'm not someone who will take on a role and not follow through. I absolutely refuse to give up."

Linda Lowe, 2016 ESP of the Year

And go she does, campaigning and recruiting to fill all the spots on the NEARI Executive Committee and Delegate Assembly that ESP of URI/NEARI is allowed. Lowe also has been working to increase participation at union meetings and other functions, in part by using technology to help members attend online by live streaming the proceedings.

One issue of special interest to her is getting her members paid properly for the work they perform. Classified staff must request a desk audit from the state – a procedure which involves documenting tasks and expectations over a period of time, and showing that they exceed the job description for the position held.

Lowe herself pursued an audit for seven and a half years, and was forced to involve an attorney before she prevailed. Her job as head cashier involves cash handling duties for all dining service locations; the desk audit raised her three pay grades. "I'm the highest paid best educated cashier in the universe," she joked.

As if leading one of the largest locals wasn't enough, last spring Lowe was elected NEARI regional vice president for higher education ESP. Already she is working to coalesce the group of affiliates she represents in that capacity.

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