Page 9 - Work Force January 2017
P. 9

Stiefel’s unionism defined by helping others
 ONEONTA — CSEA Local Government Mission Achievement Award recipient Linda Stiefel’s
union activism has never been a solo venture; it’s always been about working selflessly with and on behalf of others.
Stiefel, who worked as a data entry machine operator at the City of Oneonta’s Finance Department before recently retiring after 38 years, said she first got involved with our union because she disagreed with where their contract negotiations were headed.
“After being employed for about four years, I didn’t like the direction that they were going in negotiating the contract, so I figured, well, if I was going to complain, I might as well start getting involved,” she said.
That sparked a career of CSEA positions, including serving as
her unit’s treasurer and president, as well as Otsego County Local treasurer. She also served on CSEA’s Board of Directors and chaired
the region and statewide Audit Committees, along with other committees.
“Once I got involved, the treasurer was retiring, so the unit president
asked me to step in, so I stepped in with that,” Stiefel said. “From there, I got right into negotiations. I also started taking the classes that CSEA offers, and became a grievance rep and had disciplinary training. I’ve just been doing it ever since.”
Her husband Terry, who was
also a CSEA member before retiring several years ago, often joined Stiefel in union activities.
“My husband and I were both union members, so we made it
a family affair,” Stiefel said. “It
was easy for us. We never had
any children, so we could go to conferences and to trainings. It was good because if something happened at his work site or mine, we could bounce it off each other. We tried
to work together to come up with solutions. We’re a pretty good team.”
Over her long career with the city and with our union, she said she takes most pride in establishing committees that would benefit her members.
“I feel like I have had an impact, getting our labor-management and our safety and health committees going,” she said. “That’s one thing that I really like — that we were able
to keep them going.”
Stiefel teared up while discussing
the Mission Achievment Award, CSEA’s highest honor for union activism.
“When I found out I was going to receive the Mission Achievement award, I felt very honored; didn’t expect it,” she said. “It really meant a lot to me.”
Central Region President Colleen Wheaton
Stiefel on her
award, and
praised her
activism. “With
her dedication
to our union
members, Linda
is so deserving
of this award.
She has always
served as a
tireless workhorse for CSEA, and we are so appreciative of everything she has done.”
Stiefel had some good advice for her other CSEA members who are not active in our union.
“They really do need to get involved and know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s their livelihood. They think ‘it’s just a job,’ well, it’s really not. You have that job and you have the benefits because of our union, and we’ve got to keep it going.”
She said she is concerned about
a future in which people might try to convince union members to leave their union.
“If somebody came to me and said I could quit the union and have the same benefits, I’d say ‘absolutely not,’ because once you quit, you’re going to get somebody else that quits, and management’s going to know,” she said. “If we don’t stick together and build it up, we’re not
going to have anything left.”
Stiefel admitted that labor union members will be facing steep challenges
in coming years. Now, as members of CSEA’s Broome, Chenango,
Delaware and Otsego Counties Retirees Local, Stiefel and her husband will continue to be involved with our union.
“For the future of our labor movement, I feel we have a long hill to climb,” she said. “We’ve got to stay together; we’ve got to get the younger people involved — tell the history of the union. It’s not easy, and it won’t be easy, but I think if we stick together, we’ll make it up the hill.”
— Mark M. Kotzin
 “I feel like I have had
an impact, getting our labor-management and our safety and health committees going. That’s one thing that I really like — that we were able to keep them going.”
 From left, Central Region President Colleen Wheaton, Linda Stiefel and CSEA President Danny Donohue.
January 2017
The Work Force 9

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