They’ve only been on staff for less than a year, yet two of the Central Region’s newest business reps plan on spending the next decade at ICG. That’s how much Heather Crowell and Yvette Marche’ Cooper say they are loving their new jobs.
“I’ve already told [Central Region Director] Theresa Khouri that I’m here for 10 years,” said Crowell. “Once Marche’ came in, I told her she couldn’t leave until I leave. We’ve been politicking Theresa to join our 10 year plan, since under her leadership we will continue to keep the local steady. We’re involved, we’re not going anywhere.”
“Making a difference in the lives of our membership brings us joy,” agreed Cooper. “Theresa has set us up for success as we begin our journeys with the ICG. We love our jobs and are blessed to be part of this great organization.”
Part of what has made this new journey so fulfilling, both women agree, is that Crowell and Cooper are once again co-workers. These self-described “Two Musketeers” are friends of more than 15 years, former flight attendants who fought together for airline safety, including lobbying on Capitol Hill with Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) leader Sara Nelson. While members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) their work included advocacy, negotiations, grievance mediation, arbitration and organizing.
Crowell characterizes herself as the “mama bear,” the aggressive agitator who is not afraid to speak up or lodge a complaint because, as she contends, “when I see something wrong, I immediately fight to make it right.” Cooper, quieter and methodical, is the “grandma” who kills with kindness and knows all the intricacies of every contract. Between 2012 and 2014, Crowell served as a district representative with Cooper, an elected local representative reporting to Crowell.
“In every union, you’ve got politics. Marche’ and I immediately pushed the politics aside. In our mutual dedication to focusing on taking care of our membership, we formed a solid, trusting friendship. We have each other’s back and frequently bounce issues off each other to come up with unique solutions to enforce contractual violations,” said Crowell.
Crowell eventually stepped down to pursue her studies, earning a Master’s degree in union leadership from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and later moving to SkyWest. Cooper was tapped as Crowell’s successor. She stuck with the airline until it shut down during the COVID pandemic.
While At SkyWest, Crowell worked for an airline whose flight attendants were not covered under a union contract. She was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for SIA, an inhouse association. She gradually grew frustrated at not working in the union environment. Having reached an age where she could retire with her lifetime benefits, she looked for a new challenge. She found it in a listing for Local 600.
“I’ve got to have passion for what I’m doing. Otherwise, I won’t do it,” said Crowell. “A couple of days before my birthday, I went on the Union Jobs website, saw the listing and put it out there. Two days later, Theresa called. The timing just all worked out.”
Cooper, meanwhile, was also considering a change. She had recently cared for her father in the final days of his life and stayed in touch with Crowell who gave glowing notices of her new work at ICG. “If they ever have any openings,” Cooper told Crowell, “Let me know.”
In fact, another Central Region rep position came available early in 2022. Cooper applied and Crowell told Khouri that her longtime friend and union sister would be an outstanding addition to the team.
Although they are both well-seasoned in the workings of the labor world, Crowell and Cooper both admit that learning the world of camera and publicity has been part of the learning curve, especially with set visits being limited in large part due to the pandemic.
“That’s part of the thing with set visits. Being able to connect with your people so they know you’re approachable, available and a friendly face to call when they have a problem,” said Crowell.
And whether the industry is airlines or entertainment, workers like to feel like their concerns are being heard, Cooper noted.
“It’s just giving back to people, listening to them and letting them know they’ve got your ear,” she said. “Each time we talk to someone we want them to know that we are here, their voices will be heard, and that we care.”