Building Service Workers Award Honoree Clementine James: A Life of Service to Others

For Clementine James, nothing is more important than helping people

25 Oct 2019 | 11:00

Clementine James has made helping people into her life’s work. And when she talks about all the ways she does that, it’s evident how much of herself she has dedicated to being there for other people. James, 46, is a security officer at the city’s Human Resources Administration building in Cypress Hills, where she has worked for about two years. She has been working in security since about 2001.

She’s highly active in politics, and participated in 32BJ’s fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. “I’ve done a lot of work to elect people that reflect the values of the union,” she says. She was also involved in advocating for the Fair Fares program, which offers discounted MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers. James is also a member of Community Board 12 in Queens.

One of the causes closest to her heart is Mount Sinai’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program. Twice a month, on Sundays from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., James gives her time to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as they wait in emergency rooms. “Domestic violence and sexual assault is something that's obviously been of interest in me," she says. "My mom is a survivor of domestic violence. And I think it’s very much something that is misunderstood and I wanted to just be there for people and say that there's someone here for you."

James was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and came to New York City by herself in her twenties. She started out doing odd jobs and working at Burger King, which is one of the reasons she was able to connect with the fast food workers fighting to raise the minimum wage. “I was able to understand the struggle of doing a job like that," she says, "the physical demand that it has, and having to go home and take care of a family."

James has a daughter who is a nurse, and two sons, the youngest of whom is in high school. James herself is in her final semester at York College in Jamaica and will get her bachelor’s degree in psychology in September. After that, she’s not sure what her next step is. “I will like to continue helping in a position that helps people, but I'm not really sure yet exactly how it will manifest itself. But I know that it will be in this type of work, even if I just volunteer in it. I like helping people. I just love to motivate people and just see them on the other side,” she says.

"I just love to motivate people and just see them on the other side.” Clementine James