Page 7 - Work Force February 2017
P. 7

Engaging our
members for
challenges ahead
 UTICA — When Debbie Sege, a secretary at the Central New York Psychiatric Center, attended a
work site meeting as part of our union’s recent three-day Never Quit membership blitz in Oneida County, CSEA activists and staff volunteering for the effort
told her about challenges
that might take away the rights and benefits she values
in her union membership.
told Sege that many rights she
often takes for granted could be in jeopardy, including the ability ro have a union contract, collective bargaining and protections such as seniority, workplace safety, pensions and benefits.
Sege said she now understands the need to have the ability to stand up to elected leaders who keep trying to take away more from workers and retirees.
“[Coming from working at a non- profit], I know that my union offers better protections for me and my family,” Sege said.
“That’s why I’m here. I came here for the better benefits and better wages, and those are available to me as a result of having our union.”
Sege’s conversation was one of hundreds of one-on-one
CSEA members working at the Central New York Psychiatric Center have a work site meeting with Westchester County activist Adele Herzenberg and Central New York Psychiatric Center Local President Michael Patterson. Pictured here, from left: Shelby Ferguson, Mike Kehoe and Scott Ashley.
 By the
end of that
not only did
Sege promise to
never quit on
her co-workers and our union, but to also spread the word to other CSEA members.
“It’s important not to quit,” Sege said. “Quitting on our union means failure, and for us, it’s not an option.”
The member and staff volunteers
conversations that dozens of member volunteers and staff
held recently with our members throughout Oneida County. Those conversations are the cornerstone of our union’s ongoing “Never Quit” efforts to spread a message of hope and prepare for the challenges ahead.
Central Region President Colleen Wheaton kicked off the “blitz,” thanking the activists and staff for volunteering, including activists from Westchester, Ontario, Oswego and Erie counties who are part of our union’s current Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) class.
Also playing an important role by making telephone calls to members were members of our union’s Next Wave Advisory Committee.
Volunteers visited the homes of more than 2,500 members who live in Oneida County, leaving literature or having conversations when workers were home. More than 25 small group meetings were also held, either at or near our work sites.
Volunteers and members discussed many challenges facing our union and the Labor Movement, including the state budget proposal, contract struggles, the Constitutional Convention ballot question (see page 5) and ongoing right-to-work threats.
Oneida County Local President
Denise Golden, a volunteer, said the home visits were a welcome opportunity to connect with our members.
“Going to people’s doors gave
us an opportunity to discuss our issues one-on-one, and to be much more effective,” she said. “At first,
I was very nervous, but seeing the gratitude from our members and their interest in CSEA, and even some frustrations, I felt more excited and empowered. I’m proud of CSEA for reaching out to our members like this who haven’t had the opportunity to be informed like this at this level.”
Wheaton said that being aware of the coming challenges can better help us protect ourselves.
“We don’t need to view this as ‘the sky is falling,’” she said. “Instead,
we can use these challenges as an opportunity to come together and strengthen ourselves, and use our collective power to hold on to what we’ve got as union members.”
Sege said that the best way for members to get involved is to make our voices heard.
“When people tell me that the union doesn’t do anything for them, I tell them I know the union is doing something,” she said. “I tell them
if the union is not doing what they want, they need to tell the union what it is they are looking for.”
— Mark M. Kotzin
 State Department of Transportation worker Richard Dobrodziej has a conversation in the doorway of his Utica home with Oneida Local President Denise Golden and CSEA Statewide Organizer April Land.
February 2017
The Work Force 7

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