Daisy Alvarez Leads with Empathy at Local 8599


The following article is part of the Stories of Pride profile series by the USW LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee.

Daisy Alvarez (she/her) has worked as an interpreter/sign support for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students across the Fontana Public School District since 2007. Throughout the years, what she has loved the most about her job is watching her students grow.

“Witnessing those ‘ah-ha’ moments they experience because I’m able to bridge the gap of communication for them is so rewarding,” said Alvarez.

Alarez is driven by her empathy for others; it’s why she has been getting more involved in her union, Local 8599, in southern California.

And although having a union contract protects Alvarez and her siblings in many ways, she also said it is still an anxious experience being a member of the LGBTQ+ community while working in an educational setting. Meanwhile, Alvarez said a lot of her straight friends don’t understand why she is worried about her future.

“There are a lot of districts in California that are going backwards and it’s very scary.”

Alvarez sees unions as being in a position to endorse and host trainings on sexual orientation and gender identity for teachers and other educational workers.

“Sometimes just acknowledging someone’s pronouns makes a huge difference to their wellbeing,” said Alvarez. “That’s what I believe schools need more of–community and safety.”

For this reason, Alvarez said she’s become an unofficial mentor for union siblings and co-workers who aren’t comfortable being open with their own identity but need someone to talk to.

“I’m gay, I'm Mexican, I'm a woman – I've had all these strikes against me, but to know I’m someone who’s become a shoulder to lean on makes me proud,” said Alvarez, who idolizes Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association.

She also does what she can to be a support system to students who are struggling with their mental health, which she said is becoming more common. As the mother of a daughter, this is particularly personal to Alvarez.

“I try to point them in the right direction and get them to counseling, because it can be particularly hard if they’re LGBTQ+ and their family isn’t supportive,” said Alvarez. “The suicide rates amongst young people are stunning."

This is why Alvarez believes it’s more important than ever for unions to be vocally supportive of queer and trans people. For her, it’s all about equity.

“Our only agenda is we want to be seen and heard and represented like everyone else,” said Alvarez.

Click here to download a glossary of LGBTQ+ terminology, model contract language, and more resources.

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