Member Spotlight: Ikeia Cornish

Meet Ikeia Cornish, President of AFSCME Local 770 and a dedicated Direct Care Assistant at the Eastern Shore Hospital Center for the last 18 years. Her journey showcases the importance of staying engaged during negotiations and the vital role of our union in ensuring fair labor practices at work.

As a member of the most recent state bargaining team, Ikeia says, “I love the learning aspect of it. I get to interact with so many different people on the bargaining team and hear other people's perspectives. AFSCME is like a family outside of family." For Ikeia, this sense of unity and being a part of her union is a continuous learning opportunity that offers important tools for a lifetime. "We're all fighting for a better state," she emphasizes.

However, her passion for her work was tested when she became aware of pay discrepancies for part-time contractual employees who were already employed full-time in another role within the Maryland Department of Health (MDH); the agency was paying these employees contractual rates, markedly lower than what they were earning at their full-time positions.

Describing her shock when she found out about these illegal practices, Ikeia said, “To learn that I had been taken advantage of for 5 years and was not being paid what I was owed, I had a lot of questions. Someone had to know that this wasn’t the right thing to do. If it wasn’t for our union, who knows how long they would have continued to underpay us.” Now, Ikeia and her other coworkers and union members who are in a similar situation have won a settlement with MDH and their paychecks will be made whole in the coming months.

Ikeia’s journey shows the strength of collective action and the role of our union in ensuring past mistakes are corrected and every worker is paid what they are owed. After this experience, she has a message for her coworkers who have not joined our union yet: "The union is so much more than for situations when you get in trouble. Our union is a source of empowerment, allowing us to have a voice at work and a means to speak up for our rights and what we are rightfully owed.”