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Q&A with URI-PSA President Charlene “Candy” Dunn

By: Jennifer MacNab & Christiana Molinski

Q1: WhCandy Dunn Q&A (1)at was your path to union leadership and what role do you hold at URI?

A1: Candy works at URI in the Research Office. Her civic involvement began on the Charlestown Conservation Commission and Charlestown Town Council. She later became actively involved in the union after recognizing the important role unions held during the Rhode Island banking crisis of the early 1990’s.

She has held various roles on the PSA Executive Committee including, negotiating team member, treasurer, and President. She has been President for 17 years.

Q2: Why is it important for people, especially Women at URI to be active in their unions?

A2: Unions provide an important voice to all members equally, and in order to negotiate for contracts that represent the wants and needs of the membership, people must be actively involved.

Q3: Sometimes people have questions about what their union rights are and what their dues cover? Can you speak some of those topics?

A3: One of the major benefits of PSA Union membership is access to legal counsel should members need consultation. Furthermore, if a union member believes a meeting with a supervisor may result in disciplinary action, they are entitled to the presence of a union member in the meeting. This is known as their Weingarten Rights. Additionally, many supervisors and employees consult PSA with questions regarding salary upgrades and job responsibilities. The union has negotiated language into the contract to provide any member the right to request an upgrade provided specific conditions are met, and can provide support to any member interested in navigating this process.

Q4: If PSA members have questions or concerns, what action can they take?

A4: PSA members are encouraged to reach out to Ms. Jerry Paquin, Executive Assistant to URI PSA (4-2295 or uripsa@uri.edu). Members are always welcome to contact Charlene directly at 4-5475 or candy@uri.edu Both Candy and Jerry are aware that in person or telephone conversations can be difficult during working hours and are available to communicate by email or in a pre-arranged after hours meeting. Members are encouraged to reach out immediately in an emergency situation. If members would like to share their thoughts with their local area representative, they can locate their area representative here http://web.uri.edu/psa/

Q5: Any final thoughts on your accomplishments to date and goals for moving forward?

A5: Some of Candy’s biggest accomplishments center around advocacy for URI and recognition of employees on “soft money” (grant funded etc). PSA bargains through the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) that is predominantly composed of school teachers. The needs of higher educators prior to URIPSA and other NEARI higher education local unions’ involvement were often felt to be secondary. The Union Higher Education Coalition was formed of which URIPSA was an active member and with strength in numbers was able to bargain more effectively for the rights of higher education employees. Charlene intends to continue bargaining for the rights and needs of higher education professional staff members, especially those at The University of Rhode Island.

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