Retirement. It’s often the long-awaited end goal for employees who, after decades in the workforce, are rewarded with cleared schedules, alarm-clock free mornings and plenty of time to pursue their passions.
However, for Alan Peshek, retirement isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be….at least not yet.
“It’s been one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, separating myself from my brothers and sisters. SEIU 721 is my family, my coworkers are my family,” said Alan, who worked for the City of Los Angeles for 23 years. “Anything I can do for them, I’m there. I don’t care what it takes. I will always take calls, I will always give advice, I will always be a steward. If they need me, just call.”
It’s a commitment the 60-year-old has taken to heart. Despite retiring in August he still serves as a steward and is representing members in ongoing cases that started before he left his position as a Storekeeper II for the Department of General Services.
Those feelings of responsibility, seeing things through and standing up for what is right are deep seated, instilled in Alan and his siblings by parents who brought them up as “country kids” in the San Fernando Valley.
“My dad taught us survivalist skills because he said that could come in handy one day and he’d always take us hunting and fishing,” said Alan, who was adopted at 8 days old and is the eldest amongst one sister and three brothers. “I was the oldest so I’m used to looking out for people, it’s my duty.”
A career in public service
Alan didn’t plan on working for the city. He had been doing carpentry and electrical work in the private sector but when a job opportunity came up at Piper Tech, he took it.
He had only been there for three months when a disgruntled employee went on a shooting rampage and killed four supervisors there in 1995.
“It was a terrible time and that kind of did make me question whether I wanted to keep working for the city or not, but I stayed,” he said.
Later he got a job as a storekeeper maintaining the city’s fleet of police cars. Alan and his co-workers were responsible for ordering replacement car parts, getting the vehicles serviced and just generally making sure the cars were ready to go whenever officers needed them.
“I really enjoyed coming to work. I got the importance of making sure the fleet stayed on the road. It’s a big safety issue for the public and I was proud to do my part,” he said, adding that sometimes cars would come in riddled with bullets or, tragically, with human remains on them. “Seeing things like that really brings it home how dangerous that job is and it made me appreciate the LAPD a lot more.”
At one point he filed a grievance that resulted in all the city’s storekeepers being bumped up to Storekeeper II after it was found that the city was working them out of their category.
“It’s all about justice and holding people accountable to do things the fair way and the right way,” he said.
The experience showed him the power and importance of labor and he began to get more involved. That decision and the help of Renee Anderson, Julie Butcher and Dave Sanders changed his life.
“Those three mean a life to me,” Alan said, his voice cracking with emotion. “They brought me into the union world to make me see what the union’s all about and that opened up a whole new world for me, a whole new life.”
At Renee’s urging he became a steward and turned out to be a perfect fit; he started off with a 2-year winning streak that made him highly sought-after.
“One time a worker tracked me down when I was on vacation and wanted to see if I would take their case,” Alan said, laughing at the memory. “My buddies and I were out fishing in the ocean in Canada and they were so mad at me for answering that they threatened to throw me and my cell overboard!”
Right to Work UNION
With a long shaggy beard (a hold-over from his biker days) and his imposing frame, it’s not surprising that Alan isn’t known to back down from a fight.
“People always assume that I have tattoos,” he said. “I don’t but we sure could play ‘name that scar.’”
He was stabbed in a bar fight once while defending a buddy who got in a tiff with a knife-wielding drunkard. Another time he was shot while confronting a thief. The bullet went through his hand, leaving a still-visible mark at the heel of his palm.
“It just bothers me when someone tries to take advantage of someone else and I just can’t stand to see that,” he said. “I’m all about standing up for the little guy and defending what’s right.”
That’s why he has very choice words regarding those pushing the so-called “Right to Work” scheme, though some of those words are not fit to print. He takes personal offense at the suggestion that unions are greedy and taking advantage of workers.
“It’s all a bunch of BS and they’re lying that we don’t have the right to work. Everybody already has the right to work and we have the right to work UNION,” he said, bristling. “We gotta stick to our values and maintain what we’ve worked for. You take away the union, workers aren’t going to have any rights, they’re gonna be just slaves. They want to break the unions, well I say hell no. Can’t let that happen.”
A Dream Come True
The same passion that riles him up about fighting against injustice carries through to his many hobbies, which include hunting, fishing, music and animals. He also loves road trips, has been to nearly all of the National Parks and his infamous chili has never taken less than 3rd place at a cook-off.
He and his domestic partner, Nancy, bought their dream home in September 2016, something Alan says they would have never been able to do without the wages and retirement benefits secured by SEIU 721.
Their new home is located in a semi-rural area in Bishop, CA, where they have three ponds and a stream in their backyard along with apple, peach, apricot and cherry trees, goats that roam around and chickens that lay fresh eggs.
“It’s the Beverly Hills of Bishop and it’s my dream,” he said.
But Alan realizes that the same dream: having livable wages and retiring with dignity, is being threatened by the RTW attack and there’s a lot at stake, especially for the younger generation of workers. That’s why at least for now, his retirement will come with an asterisk and an amendment.
“I guess I’m retired on paper,” he said. “But as long as they’re attacking us and as long as we’re fighting, I’m going to be right there too with my union brothers and sisters. I’m not going anywhere.”