I am an activist, raised in Willoughby, Ohio. My father was a Letter Carrier for the USPS, and also a NALC Union member. I was raised in a Fundamentalist Christian church. I was mildly effeminate. Many people, but not my parents or myself, realized I was gay. I struggled with my sexuality and spirituality for years.
I attended Lakeland Community College part time for a little more than a year. I started my work experience as a bus boy in restaurants around NE Ohio. I left Ohio for Florida in 1984.
I lived most of my life in South Florida, starting out in Miami and moving slowly north into Broward County over 35 years. Places I lived in South Florida included Perrine, South Kendall, Miami (just south of Miami Shores), El Portal, Pembroke Pines, Lauderhill, Wilton Manors, Pompano Beach, and Coral Springs. I worked for Publix Supermarkets as a bag boy, cashier, stockman, and front end coordinator (a position preparing me for management).
My brother, Brian got married to Laura Grum in 1988.
Finally admitting I was gay, I came out and left the church (sort of) in 1989. In 1990, I moved in with, and got engaged (sort of – gay marriage was not legal then) to David Park, a MCC clergyman, formerly Methodist, who had recently come out to his Bishop, and divorced his wife. They had 3 kids. My parents were demonstrably less than supportive. We sort of got a bit estranged.
My brother had his first child, Abigail, in 1991. He would go on to have five more children (Kaitlin, Adam, Michael, Megan, and Joyelle) through 2003. He and his wife adopted four children (Rebekah/Mami, Jonathan, Kingston and Sarah/Princess) from Liberia in 2008, bringing their total to ten.
I first registered to vote as a Republican in 1992. That was also when I began working as a clerk in an AIDS ward for Vitas Hospice. I moved to the main Miami-Dade County office in Miami , on Biscayne Blvd. (the corporate office was a few miles down the street), as an office services coordinator. I handled ordering office supplies, medical supplies, handling cell phones and beepers for nurses and CNA’s, and occasionally taking inbound calls on the switchboard for the receptionist when she needed a break.
David and I broke up amiably in 1995. Not long after that I changed my registration to Independent. My office moved to Miramar, which was in Broward County. Then I became an Admissions Coordinator, setting up appointments for nurses to follow up on physician referrals to hospice. I also was responsible for getting the paperwork signed by the physicians with the referral. I was fired from Vitas in 1997. I worked in the Holiday season for Circuit City as a salesman in the computer (SOHO – Small Office Home Office) department.
In 1998, I got a job with The Answer Group, providing tech support for IBM computers in a call center. I studied hard, and became A+ Certified by CompTIA. I took the Microsoft Networking Certification class, but not the test. I became a second level tech (the official IBM title was Lead Customer Support Specialist) answering calls from first level techs all around the world in IBM call centers when they got stuck. They were asking me what to tell customers to fix problems on their computers. I also edited an created new pages on our internal troubleshooting a fixes website, as well as took supervisor calls on the night shift. My activism started after the 2000 election, when I disgustedly signed up to work at the polls for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. This was the last election in which we had the punch card voting.
I watched 9-11 as it happened on TV, after the first plane went into the Word Trade Center. Then Compaq (a big contract for TAG) moved their tech support to India. IBM wanted to move its tech support to North Dakota. I moved to the Bellsouth DSL account at TAG as a second level tech, setting up truck rolls to repair customers DSL At a $2 an hour wage drop). Dissatisfied with the wage drop, I contacted the Communications Workers of America and signed a union card. I was supposed to try to organize a union at TAG, but was too scared to do much or anything. In 2003, I landed a job with the real Bellsouth in a customer service sales position.
When I went to work for Bellsouth, I also joined the union, which happened to be the Communications Workers of America. At my first CWA Local 3104 meeting they were asking people to give $1 a paycheck to CWA-COPE, which is the union PAC. I had signed up to give $10 a month to the PAC when I joined the union without being asked. I sent an email to the Local President, saying they should be asking for $10 or $20. I told him we needed to un-elect George W. Bush, because of his anti-labor policies. A few weeks later, my trainer at Bellsouth told me she liked my article in the local’s newsletter. My e-mail had been published! I figured a management position at Bellsouth was out of the question. Our Executive Board delegate, Loretta Iaciofano, asked me if I wanted to be a steward. I told her I did not know enough to do it. She told me she would teach me. I told her I would think about it.
A month later, the same trainer told me that the CWA International President in Washington, D.C., Morty Barr, had given me kudos as a new member, and published my e-nail in the national newsletter. I knew I was really mud with management at that point. I told Loretta I would take the Union Steward position. I was appointed to be a union steward with the Communications Workers of America, Local 3104 in Pompano Beach, FL.
My primary job with the Union was to raise money for COPE from our local, which was the union PAC to support political campaigns. Union members donated a paycheck deduction to the PAC every paycheck, and I encouraged them to sign up or increase their donation.
In 2006, I went to my first Broward AFL-CIO Labor Day Ball and met Ron Klein, a Democratic candidate for congress. I was so excited meeting him there. I did my first canvass knocking on doors of AFL-CIO affiliated union members with Gail Marie Perry (the CWA Council lobbyist in Tallahassee), who also happened to be a member of my local) for Ron Klein, and other union endorsed candidates. After that election, I changed my registration to Democrat. I then became a delegate to the Broward County AFL-CIO, and a member of my local’s Executive Board. In 2007, I was appointed to the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee (also known as the Broward County Democratic Party). I joined the Dolphin Democrats, the local LGBT Democratic club, chartered under the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus. In early 2008, I started canvassing on weekends for Chris Chiari, who was running for state House. I ran in my precinct in 2008, and won with 71% of the vote (being campaigned against by the County chair, Mitch Caesar, who supported my opponent). I attribute that win to canvassing the precinct. I continued by phone banking in the fall of 2008, and doing some canvassing for the Obama Campaign. In 2009, I ran for Democratic Area Leader of northern Ft. Lauderdale, Lazy Lake, Oakland Park, and Wilton Manors against Ivan Itkin (the former speaker of the Pennsylvania House, and the then-President of the GOGO Democrats) who was supported by Mitch Ceasar (the Democratic Chair). Mitch appointed several committee people at the election meeting who were recruited from the GOGO Democrats and immediately eligible to vote for Ivan. They were recruited by Ivan. I remember winning by one or two votes with the help of Ron Mills, Chris Chiari, Linda Bird, Michael Albetta, Betty Di Maio, Mitch Weisbrot, and Alan Silva. Then I sat had had my first meeting at lunch with Mitch Caesar. That was also when I worked on the OFA campaign to get the Obama Healthcare Plan passed. In 2010, Mitch Caesar asked me to become his Recording Secretary, to replace the current one, who was resigning. I ran and won by a couple votes (I think it was five). Mitch appointed Ivan Itkin to replace me as Area Leader.