Page 13 - Work Force February 2017
P. 13

Casler devoted
to fighting for our
AUBURN — CSEA State Government Mission Achievement Award recipient Patricia Casler has never been one to back down from a challenge.
She’s not uncomfortable working in a maximum-security prison, or standing up for other workers’ rights.
In fact, that’s exactly why she
got involved in our union 23
years ago, after she was told in a condescending manner that her workplace issues weren’t important.
“When I first started at (the Auburn Correctional Facility), I worked in the business office with 18 other women,” Casler said. “We had some issues in the business office and I approached the local president. He was a great guy,
but when I came to him with my concerns, I was told that (our issues) were ‘girl stuff.’”
“At that point, I decided that maybe this ‘girl’ ought to get a little more involved,” she said.
Working for change
Casler, an industrial training supervisor at Auburn’s upholstery shop, where she supervises and teaches inmates to upholster and sew to produce office chairs, started attending union meetings.
She eventually became her local’s treasurer. Sixteen years ago, she was elected local president, an office she continues to hold.
She was also appointed
as statewide chair for labor- management for the Department of Corrections, a position she’s held for the past 10 years. She’s also served twice on CSEA’s contract negotiations team, negotiating the last and current state contracts.
“This is the second time I’ve served on the contract negotiating team, and we’ve worked long and
 hard to try to get a good contract for our members,” she said.
Casler is also proud of maintaining a positive relationship with administrators at her facility to benefit her members.
“I’ve been able to make changes in my workplace as far as how people did their jobs, how we distributed the work, and I’ve been able through labor-management training to have a good working relationship with the executive team at the facility,” she said.
As a CSEA activist, her biggest challenges have resulted from staffing cuts throughout her department. “We’re being asked to do much more with fewer personnel, and it’s caused a lot of frustration and hardship among our members,” she said.
Casler laughed about her surprise when she learned she would be honored with our union’s most prestigious award. “At first, I thought possibly that they had the wrong Pat,” she joked. “I’m humbled and honored that I was considered and awarded this great honor.”
CSEA Central Region President Colleen Wheaton congratulated Casler for receiving the award, thanking her for her years of dedication.
“Pat has always stood up for
her members, especially women working in the corrections field, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to honor with this award,” Wheaton said.
Casler said she was also pleased to receive a letter of congratulations on her award from the Department of Corrections commissioner.
Urging others to stand strong
Casler said her union involvement has improved her life, as well as her livelihood.
“My union activism has made me a better person,” she said. “I have more self-confidence because of the training I’ve received from my union.”
Casler is also proud of the fact that her union will also provide her with retirement security.
“I can look forward to someday having a pension and benefits
in retirement,” she said. “I think sometimes when you start your career, you
might be looking
at the paycheck
but not the long-
term benefits.
It’s important,
especially now,
that people stay
united and work
toward that goal
of keeping what
we have earned
for years of service.”
And that work should include workers caring more about each other, she said.
“As far as union participation, I wish more members would look at the whole picture and not just their concerns,” Casler said. “I tend to hear from people when there’s an issue that affects them. They don’t tend to be real concerned about what’s happening to their
co-workers and they’re too busy to get involved.”
“I try to stress on members the importance that we are one group,” she said. “We need to stay strong and address the issues.”
Casler said that staying strong means that we can never stop supporting each other, even for short-term gain.
“I would never quit on my union to save a few bucks,” she said.
“Anybody who would do that isn’t aware
of the whole picture and the consequences. It’s important to keep our union strong. I think because our union’s been around for a
long time, people tend to forget why it started, why unions came to be. People fought long and hard to give us dignity, to give us benefits, to give us the weekend. People don’t even remember how it used to be. Without a union, we’d be in rough shape.”
Thankfully, we’ve got people like Patricia Casler, who continue to remind us why union activism is important.
— Mark M. Kotzin
 “It’s important to keep our union strong. I think because our union’s been around for a long time, people tend to forget why it started, why unions came to be.”
 February 2017
The Work Force 13

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