The Detroit Documenters program trains and pays Detroiters to attend local public meetings and monitor elected officials, in collaboration with local journalists. Hundreds of residents are active in the program, bringing more transparency to local government through their meeting notes, live tweets and civic participation. 

This November, we’re featuring history enthusiast and union representative Heather Alder…


As a union representative for AT&T employees for more than 18 years, Heather Alder was glad to see union workers strike in a fight for job protections. She said even though the communication workers’ contracts aren’t up until 2026, “it’s good to see other unions doing stuff that motivates” members and provides contract language to use in the future. 

When union issues come up in public meetings, she’s intrigued. She was interested in hearing teamsters fighting for better contracts for Detroit Medical Center (DMC) medical lab assistants at the Oct. 31 Detroit City Council Formal Session. Public commenters asked the council not to give tax incentives to corporations that didn’t support them as workers and taxpayers. (Editor’s note: There’s no evidence DMC has or is seeking tax abatements.)

Heather was also especially alert recently when she heard the staffing update in the report from Board of Police Commissioners Secretary Victoria Shah. In the Sept. 21 BOPC meeting, Shah described reasons for wanting to change the legal assistant position to an executive assistant position. One of those reasons (see Page 5) is because the legal assistant position is a union position, whereas the executive assistant position won’t be. In the Sept. 28 meeting, the board approved the position title change (pending approval from the Budget, Finance and Human Resources committees). “Less union workers,” Heather laments in her live tweets

Another assignment she really enjoyed was the 2022 Documenters on the Bus special assignment. In her notes, Heather reminisces about the commercials from the 1980s as the bus passes Dittrich Furs, and she points out other historic points of interest along the way. Heather said it’d been a while since she caught the bus, and she enjoyed seeing the changes in Detroit, especially downtown. 

“I love my city,” said Heather, who has lived in Detroit since 1991 and is delighted to be able to incorporate her own knowledge with what she sees on assignment. She said Documenters “gives another outlet for people to see stuff they may not normally see,” and if they can’t attend a meeting, the notes are there for them to read. 

She likes to see people engaged and learning, offering insights and otherwise interacting with her live tweets, and she looks forward to more opportunities to use her degrees in communication, history and political science to help improve lives in Detroit. 

Scroll down to learn more about Heather and how you can connect with her. 


Name

Heather Alder


Location

Detroit


What I do

Union worker for AT&T; union representative 18 years. Earned degrees in communication, history and political science from University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2001 and 2021.


What I love about it

Helping co-workers; problem solving.


One thing I want to get from the Documenters community

Learn more and share information about my city. Utilize my study, life and work to add insight when able.


One thing I can give to the Documenters community

Community knowledge: history of the city and labor movements. Personal knowledge of places of the past as well as changes in the city from the last 30+ years. Community involvement. Political insight.


Which music album do you go back to over and over again?

Prince’s “Sign o’ the Times,” which has a variety of songs that continue to be relevant.


How you can reach me

@HeatherPInTheD on X, formerly known as Twitter.


Are you looking for a way to use your lived experience to help improve the lives of Detroiters? Get trained and paid to attend local public meetings and take notes. The next Detroit Documenters Orientation is Nov. 15. Learn more and register now

Lynelle (she/her) likes working with Documenters because she thinks it’s important for us to share our news and our voices with our neighbors and networks. Her favorite spaces in Detroit are the urban gardens that promote peace, hope, health and healing.