November 09, 2018

On the Job: Christina Loudermilk, City of Rockford

Loudermilk is president of AFSCME Local 1058 and a Tree Trimmer at the City of Rockford.

Tell us about your job in the Rockford Public Works department.

As a tree trimmer, I do tree removals and trim high and low branching. I also work to protect the tree population. Right now I’m treating ash trees for the emerald ash borer epidemic. These little pests have killed a lot of trees in Rockford and we’re running a six-year program to keep the borer off the trees so they remain healthy. In the winter months I plow snow.

How did you get into this public service career?

I worked for the Rockford public school district as a bus driver. I worked for the city in the summer because they needed people with CDL licenses, and I really liked working for the public out in the field. So I applied and I came over to the public works department. I was a heavy equipment operator and now I’ve been trimming trees for five years.

How does your job serve the community?

Rockford is known as the Forest City. When we remove trees, we plant trees. So we are helping keep our Forest City beautiful and healthy.

We are also first responders during weather emergencies. If you have a winter storm come in, you have to clear the roadways of snow and ice for police and fire, and for the public to get around safely. Or if trees fall, they end up in the roadways, on homes and cars, and we’ll come and clear the right of way. We keep people safe.

What inspires you on the job?

My favorite part of the job is serving the public, making everything safe and taking care of the trees. I love the outdoors, being out in nature.

But I’m also inspired by being there for my co-workers. I’m a voice for my union brothers and sisters and I’m fearless. If I see a wrong I want to make it right.

Why are you active in your union?

I’ve been a union activist for well over 20 years. I made sure I was at every meeting and I ended up getting on the local executive board. The only way to make things right is to become involved. Change starts within.

How does the union improve public services?

Having a union means we know our jobs have value. Contractors are just doing a job for someone else. But in Rockford, we have ownership of our jobs and we take ownership of our work. Everybody in my department eats, breathes and lives trees. And that’s the same across every department. When you take ownership of the service you provide then you tend to care a lot more about the quality of work you do each day for the community.

How has your union job helped your family?

I worked many jobs before I got a union job. Being an African-American, a minority, I know that you aren’t protected even if you get great reviews. Being in the union, I don’t have to worry about somebody using me to fill a quota and then downsizing by one. As long as I’m doing my job, doing what I’m supposed to do, I know I’ll keep my job.

I have eight children and I’ve been with the city for 20 years now. That stability has provided health benefits for me and my whole family. It’s helped me send four of my kids to college. It’s helped me purchase a home.

I love my union. I would never want to get out of my union because I couldn’t see myself surviving without it.

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