Q&A with NPEU Member Christian Smith
An Interview with NPEU Member Christian Smith.
What do you do at the Center for American Progress?
I’m an Organizing Associate with Generation Progress. Our team is the advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress, and we focus on engaging young people nationwide on the most progressive issues of our time. The part I’ve enjoyed most during my time at GP is meeting and training those young people who have entered the progressive movement for the first time in organizing methods. It’s satisfying to help those who’ve been inspired to act for the first time – to “pay it forward” by helping them become leaders in their own way so they can contribute to their communities and to the movement long-term.
How long have you been a NPEU member?
Since late 2016. I was hired at CAP just as the CAP Union had formed and was negotiating its first contract.
Is this your first time working in a unionized workplace? If so, how is it different from a non-union workplace you've worked in? If not, how is NPEU different from the previous union you were part of?
It is my first time, yes. For those that know, until recently there weren’t any unions among the staff of electoral campaigns and legislative offices. That’s my job background, so NPEU and the Local 70 are my first union. Definitely more security on whether or not I get my paid on time, and sense of support when advocating for my professional well-being and a livable income.
What has your overall experience been like working at a unionized workplace?
Given my experiences in those spaces and seeing how the CAP union has made strides in improving my quality of life and workplace experience, I can say that I cannot praise union membership enough to those “CAP newbies” and others working non-unionized nonprofit jobs in D.C. For the latter, they’re always impressed with the things I tell them regarding what members of the Local achieved through their contracts. I hope sharing those stories has dividends, as I’d like organized labor to grow in D.C. so more people can see the benefits of unionization.
What do you value most about your NPEU contract?
Keeping it real: the power it’s given us to increase our salary floors. Nonprofit workers often get paid dirt given the costs of living in or around D.C. Added atop the student debt that many of us have, we need better pay along with other benefits that help improve our general health (e.g. more generous vacation time, maternity and sick leave, etc).
Additionally, I value the way it keeps management accountable for respecting our labor time, ensuring better hiring practices so members of our workplace are diverse and equitably paid, and recognizing the terms that empower the junior staff to negotiate our professional development and advancement.
How would you like to see NPEU grow or develop in the next 5 years?
As new units organize under NPEU, my hope is that membership will grow to include more of the groups advocating on behalf of ethnic and cultural communities. Given the close network of young Latino professionals throughout the DMV, I know many workers in the “Latino nonprofit space” here that have the same problems with management, fair treatment, and pay quality no matter where they’ve worked within the space. I’m sure this is not unique. If the local NPEU grows to include more of these community advocacy groups, the labor movement can grow in DC and ensure the benefits of unionization go to a diverse set of workers – workers who would see their quality of life improve, and empower them as they seek to empower the communities they fight for.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I dabble in a bit of painting and like art festivals and museums. I also like learning and practicing cocktail and cooking recipes, and hosting friends to share them with. I also do body-training and weightlifting, which (I guess) balances-out my love of gaming on a couch after a long day.
Do you have any skills or talents that you could offer NPEU members, if they need it?
I have well-known affinity for men and women’s sartorial fashion. If you need help dressing for the occasion, I’m your "locally accessible Tan France.”
What are your social media handles?
@LatinoSmith on Instagram.