Mary E. Sullivan: Educating, inspiring and honoring union members

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Sisters and Brothers:

September through October is when we observe Hispanic Heritage Month. We proudly lift up our union members who identify as Hispanic, Latino or Latina, and continue to recognize their accomplishments and struggles. We support all who work with the constituency group, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and I would urge everyone to learn about some of the great Latino and Latina labor leaders who have led the fight for marginalized workers, such as farmworkers Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

We can all learn lessons of our shared humanity from their examples.

As you read this, we will have just finished our second virtual convention, where we focused on educational workshops and sessions. I would like to thank every member who took the time to participate, because I so firmly believe that we get stronger and more effective when we share knowledge. It’s why I’ve spent so much of my union career making sure we share information and mentor our future leaders. Being an effective union leader involves many skills that need to be nurtured and developed. You don’t just get elected and start knowing how to do everything that goes along with the job. Like many other specialized jobs, we have our own particular jargon and set of rules and responsibilities we follow. It takes time to get good at it, but that time gets shorter when we share information, skills, and solutions with each other.

I thank so many of our union staff who put in countless hours to make this event happen. Just like when we meet in person, there is so much work done behind the scenes in the months and weeks leading up to our convention. From planning to execution, we could not accomplish a successful delegates meeting without the dedicated staff professionals who worked so hard putting this together. I won’t single anyone out or list everyone who worked on this, because the list would be too long. I’ll just say that it took a great team effort, with additional challenges to overcome due to the technology we had to use. As usual, our teamwork resulted in a great virtual conference experience. I’d also like to thank our featured speakers, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Governor Kathy Hochul, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, A. Philip Randolph Institute President Clayola Brown, AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride, for taking time out of their busy schedules to address our attendees.

As we emerge from this conference, hopefully with new energy, inspiration, and knowledge, we recognize there is still much work ahead to accomplish together. We head into the final months of the year still looking to end this pandemic that has been plaguing our world. We need to deal with the lingering effects it’s had, not only on our economy, but the labor shortages that have been made worse because of it. We had some areas of public service, especially in direct care, health care and child care, where staff shortages existed before the pandemic. Now, we face crisis staffing levels in many of these areas, and we are working with our employers, our government leaders and all other stakeholders to find solutions. The union workers in these fields deserve better, and it’s going to take all of us to make that happen.

We also face a crisis made worse by climate change and the aging infrastructure of our country. I’m sure you were as horrified as I was to see the recent floodwaters raging into the subway system in New York City and killing fellow New Yorkers. We must figure out ways to successfully handle the impact climate change is having on our world, as well as the aging infrastructure that needs to be hardened to withstand it. I thank all the CSEA members who responded to the recent flooding, helping provide relief to those impacted. Whenever disaster hits, it’s always the CSEA work force who respond in our communities.

I wish you a safe and healthy Fall season.

In Solidarity,

Mary E. Sullivan, President

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