Windless is the first African-American to be elected as a union president at HFC
HFC Financial Aid Associate Leslie Windless made history at HFC, becoming the first African-American to be elected as a union president at the College. Her 3-year term as the president of the Support Staff Association (SSA) begins Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.
“Being the first African-American anything in 2020 is bittersweet. However, I want to focus on the positive side of being the first African-American union president. The College benefits any time there are diverse faces sitting around a decision-making table. The more your leaders look like the community you serve, the more likely it is that you are capturing what’s in the best interests of the majority. One of the best things about the SSA is the diversity among our members, and that diversity is the key factor that contributed to this historic moment,” said Windless.
A native of Farmington Hills, Windless graduated from Plymouth High School. She earned an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree – both in business administration – from Baker College in Allen Park. She earned an associate degree in liberal arts from Washtenaw Community College (WCC) in Ann Arbor and a master’s degree in human and social services from Walden University in Minneapolis, MN. Currently, she is working on a master’s degree in higher education, also from Walden. She and her husband live in Dearborn Heights with their four children.
Windless has worked at HFC for nearly four years. Previously, she was at the Ross Medical Education Center in Madison Heights. She also worked at WCC in the financial aid department, bringing that knowledge to HFC.
Goals and challenges
Although her term begins at the first of the new year, Windless has been working with out-going SSA President Kim Kaier to ensure a smooth transition.
“I started working the moment after I was sworn in by President Kaier. Kim and I are already a team because I am a current executive board member (secretary). We work closely already, so it has made for a smooth transition into this new role,” said Windless. “The members of the SSA are like family to me and they inspired me to run for the presidency.”
The biggest challenge Windless is facing once her term as president begins is taking over in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We still have several members who are laid off, and we are in the middle of contract negotiations,” she said.
Her goals for her first term include:
• Building a relationship with the administration and other union leaders on campus
• Completing a compensation study
• Increasing engagement with the community, including local politicians
• Increasing transparency and inclusion with the general membership
Being the voice for all union members
Community engagement is a huge part of the SSA, according to Windless. SSA members have contributed more than 900 volunteer hours from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2020.
“We have continued to be philanthropists throughout this year during the pandemic,” she said. “We distributed more than 500 book bags filled with school supplies to residents in Dearborn over the summer. We provided a safe space for almost 1,400 children to trick or treat in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights in October. We’ve volunteered at countless free food distributions since the pandemic began in both Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.”
She’s looking forward to taking over the SSA, where she’s determined to overcome the challenges in her way and accomplish her goals.
“American labor unions were created to establish benefits for all workers,” said Windless. “As a former foster child, I know more than the average person what if feels like to need someone to represent and advocate on your behalf. In my term as president, I plan to uphold that notion by being the voice for all union members while pushing for equity, transparency, and inclusion in the College.”