MERRICK — CSEA Town of Hempstead Local Recording Secretary Justin Blasich was surprised and humbled when CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan personally called to inform him that he had received this year’s Membership Achievement Award.
The award is given to a CSEA member or group of members for their work in signing up new employees make a significant contribution to converting nonmembers into members.
“I’m here for the members; they’re my brothers and sisters. We work together every day,” said Blasich. “The fact that I won an award for doing right by them is an honor.”
Blasich, who received the award at our union’s 112th Annual Delegates Meeting (ADM), was honored for his tireless efforts to engage members and grow our union, which includes using technology.
His CSEA activism began about 10 years ago when local officers identified him as a strong-willed person who is unwilling to accept management abuses. It is that same will that motivates Blasich to use all available resources, including technology, to keep building CSEA’s strength in the town, where our union today has a respectful working relationship with town board members.
One of the tools Blasich uses is a project and task management website named monday.com, which CSEA Town of Hempstead Local Executive Vice President and Local technical specialist Mike Errico introduced to the Local as a way to keep track of members’ contact information and member status.
The website also has an application, which Blasich uses as a backup for the My CSEA application.
The convenience of technology has been especially helpful when signing up members at union events.
“Everyone wants to attend the big local events like our holiday party and member appreciation day,” said Blasich. “That’s my opportunity to verify people’s members status on the spot.”
Blasich also stresses the importance of identifying people who do not realize that there has been a change in their membership status.
“A lot of members fell through the cracks post-Janus,” said Blasich, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 opinion. “Now, we have new employees that show up to member meetings because they know that’s where they get updates about issues impacting the town’s workforce.”
“When I look them up using one of the apps and see that they are not members, I can begin a conversation about why they should join CSEA,” said Blasich. “Most of the time, they are surprised by the number of benefits of being a CSEA member. I explain to them that that’s the reason why their supervisors never told them about us.”
The method must be effective, because Blasich signed up 19 new members at one of the Local’s member appreciation days.
Occasionally, Blasich still has to rely on the Town of Hempstead Local’s manual member files, which gives him a greater appreciation for new technology.
“Sometimes, I think to myself that I can only imagine what I would do if five members came to this office right now and I had to manually look up their member status,” said Blasich. “Using technology, you’re not waiting and you can help the member in a reasonable amount of time. That efficiency helps strengthen your relationship with the member.”
If increasing CSEA’s strength and influence is not enough motivation to build CSEA’s member numbers, there is also a more practical side.
“Like everywhere else, the Town of Hempstead is very short staffed,” said Blasich. “To lose membership numbers means an increased workload for the members who remain.”
Explaining these simple facts is another part of Blasich’s success. Workers may not realize the huge impact of being part of a unified, unionized workforce. All it takes is someone like Blasich to take the time to explain the complexities of unionism and political power, and workers suddenly understand the importance of coming into the CSEA fold.
“You really just shoot the breeze with people and ask them questions about themselves,” said Blasich. “When people become more comfortable with you they generally open up and become more receptive to what you have to say.”
— Wendi Bowie
Above, Town of Hempstead Local Secretary Justin Blasich received the Membership Achievement Award. From left, CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan, Town of Hempstead Local Secretary Justin Blasich, Statewide Membership Committee Chair Guadalupe Johnson and Long Island Region President Jerry Laricchiuta.