It’s a Wednesday morning in mid-September. School’s back and that means Antoinette Nelson is hard at work monitoring the halls of All City High School in Rochester.

Miss Nelson, as she’s known to both students and co-workers, is a School Safety Officer (SSO) for the Rochester City School District and she’s a proud member of BENTE Local 2419.

Her love of All City High’s students is contagious: “I tell my students, I’m here because of you!”

She’s worked for the School District for 27 years – most of that time as a switch board operator. But after 22 years of service, she was laid off because of downsizing.

Miss Nelson was five days away from losing all of her benefits when she got a call from BENTE President Dan DiClemente. The Union had managed to find her a job as a part-time cleaner for the District, and not long after that, Antoinette went back to full time employment as an SSO.

Antoinette fought back tears as she told the story. “Dan stuck his neck out for me and made it happen… the Union took care of me,” she said.

She explained how that experience motivated her to stay in close contact with BENTE officers and stewards. Whenever Antoinette or her co-workers have a question about their employment, she calls the BENTE office. “The Union doesn’t give misleading information… they keep us informed.”

Miss Nelson summed it up: “I got my health and strength, and I’ve got a strong union.” But it’s only because of working class heroes like Antoinette Nelson that the Union remains strong.

This is the first in our new Working Class Heroes series where we highlight union members who stand out at work and in their communities. Got a Working Class Hero you’d like to tell us about? Contact Aaron Gallant, Council 66 Communications Director, at 585-594-0753 or