From left to right, CSEA Southern Region President Anthony Adamo, Orange County Unit activist Lisa Taylor and Orange County Local President and Region 2nd Vice President Rosemarie Kukys pose after Taylor received the Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing.

GOSHEN — As a newer shop steward in the Orange County Unit, Lisa Taylor looked forward to attending our union’s Statewide Women’s Conference last spring to sharpen her skills as a union activist.

It was during a conversation at the conference with Newburgh School District Unit Vice President Jamel Green that a seed was planted and Taylor’s union activism took root.

The result of that conversation is a new CSEA bargaining unit at the Goshen Public Library and Historical Society.
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For her efforts in helping library workers form a union with CSEA, Taylor received our union’s Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing. Taylor was presented with the award during the recent 113th Annual Delegates Meeting in Buffalo.

Program spurs inspiration

During the conference’s key program, “Our Voice Our Power,” members were encouraged to tell their union stories to help gain knowledge and inspiration to strengthen our union. The two-day program included breakout sessions, where members shared their stories in small groups.

“Jamel was in one of the sessions and we were telling our stories of where things started to click for us as union activists,” said Taylor, who works at Orange County Department of Social Services’ Medicaid Division.

Green explained how unit members realized it was time to step up activism within the Newburgh Free Library, building solidarity in the midst of workplace challenges at the time.

Taylor, who also works part time at the Goshen Public Library, took notice.

“When I went to work at the library on the Monday after the conference, it was like walking on eggshells,” said Taylor. “That was the ‘what if’ moment for me.”

Taking action

Taylor teamed up with library co-workers Harlene Kresse and Kitty Ruberte-Smith to explore the process of organizing a union with CSEA.

Working with CSEA Statewide Organizer Grace Klein, the campaign quickly gained momentum within the workplace and the greater Goshen community.

“I knew we weren’t going to lose,” said Taylor. “I knew we had the resources of CSEA behind us.”

Realizing that the official certification process through the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) could drag out, Taylor and the organizing committee members mobilized community support, packing library Board of Trustees meetings with residents urging trustees to avoid a costly battle and asking them to instead voluntarily recognize the workers’ union.

The efforts were successful, with library trustees eventually agreeing to voluntary recognition.

Going through the process, Taylor leaned into her shop steward role, turning out support for library workers from her colleagues at the county Department of Social Services. Doing so didn’t just help the library workers turn out support, it’s also helping to strengthen activism within the county unit.

“My co-worker from Medicaid came to a meeting with her dad and brother, and now she’s signed up to take a shop steward class,” said Taylor.

Taylor said she was humbled by receiving the Nadra Floyd Award, but she pointed out that the organizing drive was a true team effort.

“Kitty and Harlene were at the library rallying the troops,” said Taylor. “I think maybe folks just needed some reinforcement that this was doable and within our grasp. Most people wanted and needed change. I just happened to have a connection to CSEA.”

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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