SARATOGA SPRINGS — Every CSEA member has a story about their union journey.

During CSEA’s recent Statewide Women’s Conference’s Our Voice, Our Power program, attendees learned about the power of storytelling and using our voices to make positive changes.

During the program’s plenary and breakout sessions, which extended through Saturday and Sunday and were all moderated by women CSEA staff, attendees heard several inspiring stories from union members and learned how to tell their own.

“The power of telling a story is one of the most important tools each one of us has,” said CSEA Director of Membership Charisse Seneres. “The power of telling a great story can have an everlasting effect; it can inspire you and move you to action and it can change lives.”

Seneres noted that storytelling can not only help influence change, but build relationships, including through meeting new members through member orientations.

“There is no better resource in our union than all of you – the members and at a time when antiunion forces continue to escalate their attacks to weaken our union, it is critical that we stick together and never quit,” said Seneres.

The initial plenary session included stories from Health Research, Inc. Local President Deborah Hanna, Nassau County Clerk’s Office Unit President Audrey Hadden, Buffalo Psychiatric Center Local President Lovette Mootry and CSEA Rochester Area Retirees Local President Bernadette Giambra, who were each key to making positive changes for union members.

Following that session, conference attendees went into smaller, breakout rooms to share their own union stories. Attendees shared several of these stories before a Sunday morning plenary session that concluded the conference.

Read their stories

“These stories inspire us going forward because they make us realize that our voices are our power and we have to share these voices with union members,” said CSEA Director of Legislative and Political Action Fran Turner. “We need to listen to their stories and share ours. These stories give us pride to be union and we need to own that pride.”

— Janice Gavin


About Author

Janice Gavin is the editor of The Work Force and CSEA’s special interest publications. A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh and Syracuse University, Gavin has been a journalist and public relations professional for more than 25 years. She worked as a newspaper reporter and bureau chief at the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, where she was honored with Associated Press and New York Newspaper Publishers Association awards. Gavin joined CSEA as a communications specialist in the union's Southern Region in 2000. In 2004, she became The Work Force's associate editor, a position she held until becoming the publication's editor in 2017. Growing up in a union household, she is dedicated to improving workers’ lives through telling their stories.

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