Page 16 - Work Force October 2020
P. 16

   ISisters and Brothers:
chose the theme of “Rising to Meet the Challenges” for this year’s Annual
Delegates Meeting because it is what we are all doing, due to a variety of circumstances we are facing, day in and day out.
Every single union member. Every single union officer and activist. Every single union staffer. We are all rising — together — to meet the significant challenges we face, and
I am proud of the job we have done so far. It has not been easy, and we have had to endure so much difficulty, loss and struggle along the way, but I am
convinced we are doing
our collective best to
get through this terrible
We might have anticipated a dip in productivity from people working remotely, but we were pleased to see the opposite. We see union staff and officers putting in more time and stronger efforts, making sure the needs of every member are met. We are all committed to making sure we are doing our best to ensure members are protected.
The incredibly dedicated staff in our Occupational Safety and Health Department, who I don’t think got any sleep within the first few weeks of the pandemic hitting New York, did everything they could to make sure
WSisters and Brothers,
e had no idea when we began to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic
in March that our entire world would be different. This has been such a different time.
Our union had to adapt. We continued the good work of representing and advocating for each other, as well as keeping members protected, informed, connected and safe. We have also been doing our part to prevent overloading our health care systems, while continuing to serve our communities.
Whether serving at home or in public, CSEA members heroically face each day with dedication, bravery and sacrifice — unwavering in their commitment to serving the public, including our
all, we all have residue.
These are very stressful times and we
may think we are coping, but there is still residue. Residual stress and anxiety that is buried under our steely resolve. A lot of us are feeling a little depressed, a little anxiety.
“There is a heaviness,” Michelle Obama aptly said in a recent media interview.
There are certain topics we do not usually talk about, but as leaders we need to talk about it because we are from the community and we are impacted by it.
America is changing, but we do not have to be fearful.
George Floyd’s death moved so many people across the country in a way that we
When our newly
elected statewide
leadership team and I took
office in March, none
of us had any idea what
was ahead. Soon after
beginning our terms, we
learned just how deadly
the pandemic would
be. At that time, we made the difficult but necessary decisions to cancel our statewide in-person events, including our Annual Delegates Meeting, and to move to remote operations.
We quickly learned how to function in this new world of remote work, and remote representation. I am so proud of our union’s entire staff and officers, who have met
and continue to meet the challenges that working remotely present. Our Information Technology Department staff, still coming off the huge undertaking of transitioning our entire computing systems, did an incredible job in a very short time frame, getting everyone the equipment and connections needed to work remotely.
uphold our values, stand much about our society.
16 The Work Force
October 2020
2020 Annual Delegates Meeting Officer Reports
Mary E. Sullivan, Statewide President
Rising to meet the challenges
Denise Berkley,
Statewide Executive Vice President
We are going to make it through this
“The lesson we learned is that we are ALL essential, and despite great personal risk and sacrifice, we ALL stepped up to keep vital public services provided for our neighbors and our communities. We should all be proud of the part we each played.”
state’s most vulnerable, during the hardest hit time.
So, here we are. Our lives are deeply affected. So much change in such a short period of time; loss of life, racial strife, economic uncertainty ... it is hard to process.
“It is important that
as union members, we
have not seen before. The pandemic has been a magnifier, revealing
we got the most factual information, got proper personal protective equipment and put
the best practices in place to ensure worker safety. They have held trainings for thousands of workers. They put out regular updates. They worked with
our Communications Department to distribute information as widely as
possible. We all knew lives were on the line and we did everything we could to prevent the needless loss of life.
Despite those efforts, some of our own still paid a horrible price. During the early days of the pandemic, the reports started coming in of members passing from the
virus. Even one death was one too many, and we sadly learned of dozens. To them and their families, we offer our most heartfelt sympathies, and we mourn their losses deeply.
Despite this difficult time, we witnessed union members rise to meet the challenges in so many ways. They bravely went to work as essential workers providing needed
President, continued on page 21
A colleague of mine asked a simple question recently while we were having a virtual meeting. He said, ‘Denise, how do you feel?’ The tears started rolling down out of nowhere. I realized he was the first person to ask me, ‘How do you feel?’
I have known so many people who were sick and passed away from COVID-19. I think about George Floyd and all that is going on in the country right now; the Black Lives Matter movement; all of that was on my mind and in my heart when he asked me that question.
At first, I thought, ‘I have no idea where those tears came from,’ but I knew ... and the release was a relief. It felt wonderful. I began to think about others and how many people I know who are digging deep, to rise up to meet the challenges, but underneath it
It is important that as union members, we uphold our values, stand together and speak out for human rights. If there is disagreement, let us hit the issues, head on.
We are seeing bold action by CSEA, AFSCME, and unions everywhere. I am so grateful that President Sullivan embraced Black Lives Matter and in addition, hung
a large banner on the front of CSEA Headquarters to show support. That is saying a lot about us, as a union. Inclusiveness is a CSEA value and it matters. There is a role for everybody in our union. Dealing with our diversity and addressing those issues is all key in building our union. It is all connected.
Throughout history, injustice has found a formidable opponent in labor. Labor and the civil rights movement have walked literally, hand-in-hand, calling out social injustice
Executive Vice President, continued on page 21
together and speak out for human rights.”
People are paying more attention to each other. This makes me very hopeful.

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