Organizing Committee member Kitty Ruberte-Smith, standing at right, speaks during a meeting with workers during the organizing campaign. Seated, from left to right, are Organizing Committee member Lisa Taylor, Orange County Unit President Denise Fuchs and Organizing Committee member Harlene Kresse.

GOSHEN — Workers at the Goshen Public Library and Historical Society in Orange County are some of the newest members of our union.

After months of mobilization, drawing support from the community and CSEA members from other bargaining units, library trustees recently granted the voluntary recognition of the union that the workers had been seeking.


“We’re excited to move forward with the process and begin contract negotiations,” said Harlene Kresse, an organizing committee member.

Kresse, along with co-workers Kitty Ruberte-Smith and Lisa Taylor, began the union organizing process earlier this year after a change in library management caused worker morale to plummet and drove a number of longtime employees to leave.

Taylor was already a member of the CSEA Orange County Unit as a full-time employee in a county department but worked part time at the library. When she returned from our union’s Statewide Women’s Conference this spring, Taylor was motivated to ask library colleagues if they would consider unionizing, it turned out that Ruberte-Smith had been quietly looking into the process of organizing with CSEA. Read more about Taylor here.

Kresse, Ruberte-Smith and Taylor teamed up with CSEA Statewide Organizer Grace Klein to get the organizing process in motion. Soon, the three library workers had collected cards from more than 90 percent of their co-workers indicating their support in forming a union with CSEA.

“People felt devalued, unappreciated and worried for their jobs,” said Kresse. “I think everybody in the building was trying to figure out what we could do.”

Organizing committee members turned out supporters to library board of trustees meetings, with supporters urging trustees to voluntarily recognize the union to avoid a costly and drawn-out process.

In addition to the Orange County Unit, there are several other CSEA bargaining units in Goshen. They, along with activists from other unions, turned out to meetings to show their support. Orange County Local President Rosemarie Kukys and Orange County Unit President Denise Fuchs were among those standing with the workers. Fuchs also opened the unit office to the workers to serve as a home base during the organizing process.


“I was very pleasantly surprised to see the outpouring of support and the good wishes we received,” said Ruberte-Smith. “We can’t wait to start working together as a union and are hopeful for a very positive outcome with contract negotiations.”

Southern Region President Anthony Adamo said the organizing campaign reinforced the importance of existing CSEA members supporting organizing campaigns.

“When workers find their voices and stand together, knowing we’re standing behind them, they will earn that seat at the table,” said Adamo. “Our officers and staff have done a fantastic job in showing how much support and how many resources are available through CSEA, though it’s the work of Harlene, Kitty and Lisa and their co-workers that was pivotal in this being such a success.”

— Jessica Ladlee

Workers voted during a July meeting on a logo for their campaign. They ultimately chose the bottom logo.


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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