Central Region Board Reports

Region 5 Board of Directors’ Report
January 11, 2018
Colleen Wheaton, President


Good morning sisters and brothers.

I hope everyone had a wonderful and warm holiday season.

I am pleased to be with you starting out the new year, and would like to begin my report by welcoming aboard two new Region officers to fill the vacancies we had from recent retirements. I’m proud to announce that I have appointed John Brown to serve as third vice president, and Nicole Meeks to serve as treasurer. Please join me in welcoming them to our Region Executive Board.

Since we last met, our Central Region has been hard at work. In September, we held our tenth annual golf tournament, raising several thousand dollars for our College Scholarship Fund. I’m proud to announce that the application period for our 12th annual College Scholarship is now open, and we will be accepting applications from children of Region 5 members from now until April 1, 2018. We have also increased the amount of our top two scholarships to $1,000 each, which we hope will be an even bigger boost for our future award winners, who we will announce in June.

At the end of September, we held our Fall Conference in Binghamton. This time we tried something different, and we were thrilled with the result. We combined the usual leadership training aspect of our leadership conference, with a concentrated member engagement “blitz” utilizing our seasoned activists along with our staff. We were so proud to be joined by AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride, who actually went door-to-door on house visits with us. She not only had a good experience with us, but later spoke before a national audience of AFL-CIO leaders, talking up our member engagement efforts in Central New York. It was something we should all be proud of. We also had very successful interactions with many members throughout Broome County on our “blitz.”

In October, many of our delegates traveled to the Annual Delegates Meeting in Rochester for the opportunity to gather together, share best practices and learn from our staff, other presenters, and each other. We, of course, were also proud to be awarded the PEOPLE Cup, the President’s Polar Cap Award, and have activists from our Region selected as PEOPLE Recruiter of the Year, and Local Government Mission Achievement Award winner. Congratulations to Betty Jo Johnson and Beth Hall on your awards.

At the end of the month, we had a great showing of activists from our Region attend the Statewide Next Wave conference in Saratoga. We all know that the future of our union rests in the hands of our young activists who are getting involved, and the Next Wave program is one more way to get them interested and for our union to learn new ways of meeting their needs moving forward.

Throughout the last few months, we had really ramped up our efforts to educate our members on the ballot proposal to hold a Constitutional Convention. We held hundreds of meetings throughout all our counties, and I don’t think there was a staff member or activist who wasn’t in some way helping spread the word. We also had many efforts, coordinated by Political Action Coordinator Josh Schick, to spread the word through social media posts, phone banks, labor walks, sticker, poster and handbill distribution, and Election Day visibility.

The end result was that we not only defeated the Constitutional Convention proposal, but we got it overwhelmingly voted down in huge numbers. This was, as President Donohue noted, a “huge victory” for labor, and it shows the power of what we can do when we come together to exercise our collective strength. Going into the fight ahead with voluntary unionism coming, this is exactly the example we needed to be able to prove to our members the value of staying united and staying union. I can’t thank everyone who was involved in our outreach efforts enough for their time and energy in helping us secure this important victory.

November also brought us the start of Polar Plunge season, with our plunges in the Southern Tier and in the North Country. Thanks to team captains David Lee and Amy Simmons for their efforts that resulted in more than $2500 raised for Special Olympics.

We also met in Syracuse for our Fall Executive Board meeting, where we took care of the usual business of running our union. One highlight of that meeting was that we voted to establish an “Activist of the Year” award in our Region, and we will be soliciting nominations throughout the next few months and will announce our winner at our Spring Conference in June.

On a sad note, the end of November brought us the tragic workplace death of member Gregory Eliopoulos, who worked at the City of Watertown’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Mr. Eliopoulos was struck by a fitting from a high pressure hydraulic line on which he was performing maintenance. Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Josh Kemp was on site the next day investigating what went so horribly wrong with the Watertown Police and a Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau investigator from the state Department of Labor. It may be some time until we actually know the results of the investigation, but CSEA will make sure that we hold his employer accountable if negligence is found. We owe that to his wife Kim, who is also a CSEA member working for Jefferson County, and to the rest of his family, friends and co-workers. We mourn his death and we will be honoring his memory on April 30 at our Workers’ Memorial Day observance in Seneca Falls.

In December, we completed our tenth annual Syracuse area Polar Plunge, raising more than $10,000 at the event to benefit Special Olympics. Added to our previous plunges, that brings this year’s total to more than $12,500 and we are so proud to have collectively raised more than $175,000 in our Region over the ten years we’ve been plunging.

Throughout this year and the holiday season, we’ve also seen the generosity of our union members shine, as they prove time and time again how they will never quit on our communities. With food collections in places like Herkimer County and SUNY Potsdam, just to name a few, and our Region Veterans Committee recently donating more than 850 phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers, we continued to show that we care.

I wish all our activists and members a happy and healthy new year, and I look forward to standing side-by-side with you as, together, we face the challenges ahead.

In Solidarity,

Colleen Wheaton