What got him active was that he was seen as a leader in his department by his coworkers and they kept pushing him to the front of any issues they were having.
“Coworkers in my department were consistently asked to stay overtime to work without compensation,” he recalls. “I started researching our contract and noticed that for job-basis employees, if you are consistently asked to work overtime you can file for administrative leave time.”
Ruberte requested a labor management meeting and the employee sign-in logs. He created a report of two months worth of data that he then presented at a second meeting.
The result was that management worked to find a solution. Scheduling and assignments of patients was reconfigured so that employees were not overbooked and routine overtime was eliminated. Ruberte also spoke up when he saw that the department had posted three positions when there was still had an open recall list of employees who had been laid off. As a result, a former employee got his job back.
Ruberte’s effectiveness as a steward on work site issues led Local 1991 to tap him for several projects, including membership drives, political participation and the member-driven campaign to get an $830 million bond for the hospital passed.
Hiram did a lot of canvassing, speaking to groups, radio work, TV interviews, the works. He really appreciated the opportunity to work on his fear of speaking to crowds and got pretty good at it. His direct experience with organizing and the campaigns showed him the power of politics.
“Learning to feel comfortable speaking to lots of different types of people, I can use that in anything I want to do,” he says. “This has been a good experience.”