COMMACK — SCO Family of Services Local President Sirlentor Berry has played an important role in growing our union through his efforts in organizing both his own workplace and the Northeast Parent & Child Society (NPCS).
For the latter campaign, Berry was honored with our union’s Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing, which was awarded at the 112th Annual Delegates Meeting.
The award recognizes a CSEA member or group that has shown great commitment in organizing a new group of members into our union.
Berry was called on to help NPCS workers form a union with CSEA because he was on SCO Family of Services’ organizing team and because SCO and NPCS offer similar services for children and families.
The process began with meetings, researching NPCS and establishing the importance of confidentiality to ensure management would not have the opportunity to learn what organizers were planning.
“You have to choose very wisely who you’re going to trust to work with on an organizing campaign,” said Berry. “You have to know that they can be discreet and will spread accurate information to workers.”
NPCS workers voted to join CSEA in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vote held in spring 2022.
Berry credits the NPCS organizing victory with having strong, dedicated people on the organizing team, which also included CSEA Long Island Region 1st Vice President and Town of Oyster Bay Local President Jarvis Brown, Town of Oyster Bay Local officers, SCO Family of Services Local officers and NPCS workers, whose infectious spirit of encouragement easily spread to workers.
Forming a strong union
Berry was prepared for an aggressive pushback from NPCS management, which used classic union-busting tactics to try to weaken worker support, including hiring anti-union lawyers, worker intimidation and spreading misinformation.
When NPCS workers called Berry to inform him about what their managers were doing, Berry sent the workers the same information that he received from CSEA’s Organizing Department when he was helping to organize SCO Family of Services. The packet includes step-by-step instructions on how workers should respond when management tries to assert themselves.
“Organizing gets easier the more you do it because you become familiar with management’s strategy,” said Berry.
Berry also understands workers’ anxiousness to improve working conditions.
“I told NPCS workers to stay strong and wait, just like I was told when my local was organizing,” said Berry. “Good things don’t happen overnight; you have to be patient.”
Berry notes that helping members educate themselves on the stages of organizing leads to members developing a greater understanding of why the process takes time.
“I educated NPCS workers on the core values of a union, what management can and cannot do and why having a contract is beneficial to workers,” said Berry. “I also reminded them that while they’re organizing, they must continue to complete assigned tasks to the best of their ability.”
When the certification voting day finally came for NPCS workers, Berry, Brown and Town of Oyster Bay Local officers, who were attending a CSEA workshop nearby, went to the voting location to support and congratulate our union’s new members.
Soon after the vote, NPCS workers began focusing on securing their first union contract.
Once again, NPCS workers relied on Berry’s expertise to help them determine what they should include. Berry advised workers about items included in SCO’s contract. He also urged NPCS workers to consider instances when management wronged workers and address them in the contract.
NPCS workers are already seeing the benefits of union membership. The group has reached out to Berry to let him know they have begun standing up for themselves when their managers are in the wrong. With the help of CSEA, the NPCA have found their voice.
“Anyone who wants to join a union should seek out CSEA,” said Berry. “You can’t go wrong.”
— Wendi Bowie