BUFFALO — When our union’s Minority Caucus met during the 2022 Annual Delegates Meeting, attendees were urged to step up and participate in constituency groups within CSEA and the greater labor movement.
Many of our union members met that challenge and participated for the first time in constituency groups such as the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), and Pride at Work.
This year’s caucus came with a different challenge. Capital Region Executive Vice President Shana Davis encouraged strong support for union organizing efforts, both when it comes to organizing new workers as well as providing a welcome and orientation for new CSEA members joining existing bargaining units.
“Every person should have the chance to see and be seen,” said Davis.
CSEA Director of Organizing Aminata Stephens noted that more recent organizing campaigns have included larger numbers of workers from minority communities and our union must meet the sometimes differing needs of these newer members.
“The groups we are organizing are already different than our own existing membership,” said Stephens. “They have less economically than our existing members.”
Having the support of CSEA activists who have been active participants in the Minority Caucus is a crucial component.
“There is meaning and comfort in seeing someone who looks like you; who is there to represent you,” said Stephens.
As an organization, CSEA has been making strides in accommodating the changing needs of our union’s membership. CSEA Director of Membership Charisse Seneres noted that while there is a bilingual staff member in CSEA’s Member Resource Center and our union’s online membership application is available in Spanish, work is underway to better accommodate other members who are non-native English speakers.
That progress extends to CSEA-represented workplaces. SUNY Albany Local Executive Vice President Dean Ellis Jr. conducts new member orientations at the college’s worksites. He has reached out to colleagues originally from countries that include the Philippines and Albania to assist with welcoming new members, with those member volunteers speaking in their native languages to ensure the new members understand the information presented and have any questions answered.
Committee members noted that these efforts must continue to grow as our union’s organizing efforts make a difference in the lives of people seeking economic gains through the union organizing process.
SCO Family of Services Local President Sirlentor Berry cited his experience of organizing a union and securing a contract with the private sector, nonprofit group, noting that more people are seeing the union difference and want to get on board.
When he first approached his facility director requesting a raise, “she said, ‘I will never pay a child care worker 16 dollars an hour,’” said Berry. “We beat the largest union busting firm and we’re now the highest paid child care workers in Nassau County.”
— Jessica Ladlee