Page 21 - Work Force October 2020
P. 21

  CSEA STATEWIDE PRESIDENT, continued from Page 16
public services. They also worked from home to ensure our state and local governments continued to operate and services were delivered. 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.
I have always believed that effectively communicating with the members is one of our greatest challenges and our most important goals. At the start of this crisis, working with our union staff, I began sending out weekly email updates to union officers throughout the state to keep them informed with the latest developments as we met this unprecedented challenge. I urged our leadership to share this information with every member to make sure we were all armed with knowledge that could protect us.
In May, we held a statewide CSEA Appreciation Day to recognize all our essential workers, because we knew that everyone deserved recognition, but that was not all we did. We requested the state provide hazardous
duty pay for essential workers. We have worked hard to make sure PPE
is provided to workers all over the state to stay safer and continue to demand that federal guidelines and best practices are followed to ensure the safety of the CSEA workforce.
We also began a strong campaign to push our elected leaders in Washington for relief funding for our states and localities. It is desperately needed to offset the pandemic’s economic impact that devastated budgets everywhere. There was no way any government leaders could have been prepared for this. Joined by our International Union, AFSCME, we were successful in moving the U.S. House of Representatives forward in passing the HEROES Act, which contained this funding, but have been unable to get the U.S. Senate to pass it and the White House to sign the legislation. We continue this fight as economic conditions continue to deteriorate.
During this most difficult time, our country also faced the too-long ignored reality that we still have great progress to make in the areas of racial equality and justice. The needless and tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota jumpstarted a national conversation and protests across the country. In solidarity with the many Black and Brown members of our union who have been on the receiving end of institutionalized racism, I was proud to have a Black Lives Matter banner displayed outside our union Headquarters, acknowledging our need to address these important inequities. As union members committed to positive changes in social justice, I feel we have an equally strong moral obligation to stand together to advocate for positive changes in racial justice. I am glad that our
union is taking measures, at the recommendation of our Minority Issues Committee, to address these important issues.
As we now rise to meet the challenges of planning and executing our first-ever virtual convention to get the business of our union accomplished, we are also facing the challenges of the layoffs and furloughs that
are starting to impact municipalities around the state. We are doing everything we can do to avoid the pain and suffering that will come with layoffs, and we will continue to push for federal funding to alleviate the deficits driving these cuts. Layoffs do not work, people do, and this should not be the thanks we get for keeping our public services going throughout this crisis.
Sisters and brothers, I thank you all for rising to meet the challenges we have already endured, and the challenges yet to come. I have faith that we will get through them, as we always do, united in strength and solidarity.
Respectfully submitted,
Mary E. Sullivan
CSEA President
and racism alongside great leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the recently deceased Rep. John Lewis (God, rest his soul) and to this day, standing with the Bishop William Barber II, fighting inequality and rooting out injustice in America.
Labor rights are civil rights. Unions exist to improve lives. The Black Lives Matter movement is all about improving lives. It is all connected.
The Bishop William Barber II said, “Those of us who have in our history the commonality of suffering from hate, we know that those who won the day are those who chose love in the midst of hate.”
The Honorable John Lewis said, "Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society.”
As the prolific faith leader, Bishop Johnny Ray Youngblood says, “Straight Talk, Straight Understanding!”
We need to have these tough conversations. We need to have this dialogue. CSEA has always been a safe space for the tough conversations.
So, how do we have these tough conversations during a pandemic? We adapt. We rise to meet the challenges and think creatively.
Since social distancing, we have had a surge of union participation via online meeting platforms like
“Zoom” and Microsoft “Teams.” Successful Political Action, Safety and Health, Education and Training Webinars, Local and Unit membership meetings, email and social media are just a few ways CSEA is adapting
to provide proper PPE, or any PPE for that matter,
to some of the members. CSEA reacted and issued a statement that allowed for Locals and Units to purchase PPE with union funds. CSEA has always been a huge proponent of the members’ health and safety.
When schools closed for the year, there was the demand for school lunch programs to continue. As employers began to furlough, lay off or terminate their employees, the need for food bank donations escalated. Members reached out to CSEA and wanted to help. CSEA published a statement allowing Locals and Units to make a one-time donation of up to 200 dollars to organizations such as these.
I must also commend all CSEA members for their tireless work with keeping New York running during this unprecedented time. In addition, I’d like to thank all the CSEA staff for their commitment to the members and for all their assistance when needed.
When cases of COVID-19 appeared to dwindle, and I thought that things were looking up in the world, George Floyd was brutally murdered. I watched in shock the video of the police officer kneeling on his neck and sucking the life out of this man, while other officers stood by and didn’t even flinch. I was appalled!
This fall, we are also rolling out new Local President
and Unit President trainings. One aspect of the training teaches navigating virtual platforms to keep in contact with members. In the future, a blended training option for members who have conflicting schedules, lack of child care or live in rural areas, could allow them to join remotely with a meeting physically happening at the union office.
This technology is also being adapted for organizing as we continue to grow our union. Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs) help bring union power and a voice to more workers across the state.
As I am excited for all these changes in our union, I am also looking forward to major changes in our country! I am excited to see Kamala Harris making history as the first woman of color to accept a major party nomination for the Vice President of the United States. This is a big election with a lot at stake.
The CSEA membership continues to inspire me — resilient and strong! Our Power is our Unity. I see silver linings in all that we have gone through and I hope you do too.
There is never a doubt. We will always rise to meet the challenges. I am proud to be CSEA.
Respectfully submitted,
Denise Berkley
Executive Vice President
The Black Lives Matter movement took off and I soon realized the extent of the need to educate our peers about the inequalities that many people face, including those of some of the union members.
With the Presidential election looming before us, I often wonder if we can sustain another four years of our current leadership. I pray for a leader who can move this country forward and one who can formulate a sentence in an educated way, without insulting people or inciting riots. It is clear to me that this country needs to move in a different direction.
In conclusion, with the obstacles we have all faced this year, I am truly blessed to be part of the best union out there. I am passionate about CSEA and the work we do for the members. As activists and labor leaders, we must continue to fight for our rights and benefits for the members. We must remain unified! I look forward to the future when we can all see each other again. Remember to Stay Union, Stay Strong!
Respectfully submitted,
Nicole Meeks
Statewide Treasurer
 CSEA STATEWIDE TREASURER, continued from Page 17
 October 2020
The Work Force 21

   19   20   21   22   23