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Celebrating our Members: Personal Support Worker Jean Miller

August 16, 2018 Emily Innes-Leroux

PSW at Lakeridge Senior Resident, Penetanguishene, Ont.

Jean Miller says she was always interested in becoming a personal support worker (PSW). To pursue her passion, she attended night school for two years while simultaneously working at the Ministry of Skills Development.

Jean retired from the Ministry after 25 years last fall and took a part-time PSW position at Lakeridge Senior Resident in Penetanguishene, Ont.

“I want to keep working and learning so that I keep myself young,” says Jean.

A while ago, when her mother had multiple strokes, Jean took care of her and realized she had a knack for the role. Jean enjoys helping people and can remain calm in emergency situations. She has had many jobs and volunteer positions that involved responding to crises, such as a dispatcher for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and volunteering for the Victim Services Branch with Hamilton Police Service.

“I think I am good with emergency situations. When there is someone in need I would rather jump in than run away,” says Jean. “I am not necessarily really good at handling blood and guts, but I do have empathy.”

She says being a PSW requires her to recognize people’s immediate need and provide them with the right personal care.

“Knowing you are helping people is the job satisfaction,” she says. “We also do receive a lot of gratitude.”

Jean has been a member of numerous unions.  She says they have protected her over the years. In the late 1980s, she worked as a bulldozer operator in construction. It was then a male dominated industry.

“It was a challenging environment, but I was well taken care of by the union. Unions fight for fairness and equality and I just wanted to be treated equally to everyone else on the job,” she says.

In her current workplace, after new owners came in, she was concerned by the work conditions and a high employee turnover rate. “When staff are frequently leaving, this leaves the residents compromised. I felt that something needed to be done to protect the workers,” she says. So, she contacted SEIU Healthcare and asked to be involved with her union.

Bargaining committee involvement

Jean sat on the bargaining committee and recently helped achieve the retirement home’s first collective agreement. She was also just elected to be a steward for SEIU Healthcare.

“With my knowledge of contracts and working conditions, I think I have something to offer.” says Jean. “I have a lot of union experience, including a couple of strikes and I understand Collective Agreements. I hope to be a good advocate for my co-workers.”

Jean encourages others to become more actively engaged in their union.

“I hope that more people will get involved because some people still don’t realize that the union is everyone collectively. They instead see the union as a third entity,” she says. “I think to have a cohesive workplace it is important for everyone to stand together.”

On a personal note, Jean loves spending time with her family, which includes her five grandchildren. She is an artist and teaches a sculpting class. She also volunteers as the membership co-ordinator for an all women’s social group that has over 100 members. Jean is frequently keeping herself active outdoors and enjoys cycling, boating, camping, and gardening.

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