SARATOGA SPRINGS — Nearly immediately after Denise Szymura was honored with our union’s Irene Carr Leadership Award, she credited her CSEA sisters and brothers.
“We’re a team, and we all have to work together,” said Szymura, the Erie County Local president who was honored with the award at our recent Statewide Women’s Conference. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the people I’m surrounded by.”
This desire to work with others not only defines discussions about Szymura’s award, but her years of service to our union and particularly advancing women and newer activists.
Szymura’s dedication and service are in the spirit of Carr, a CSEA Statewide Secretary for 17 years and a “trailblazer” for what Carr defined as “work and family issues,” traditionally of concern to women.
The award recognizes individuals who demonstrate continuous leadership in fighting for labor rights in the workplace, particularly those that affect women.
Szymura encourages all members to get involved in our union, and points out that it doesn’t have to be political involvement. “There are so many ways to get involved,” she said, “Contact officers in your union. Let people find out what’s their fit.”.
Erie County Local activist Michele Weaver, who nominated Szymura for the award, credits her as the main reason Weaver got involved in her union.
“[Szymura] is a very big advocate for you,” Weaver said. “She always has your back.”
While Szymura was quick to point to those around her, others were equally quick to recognize her ongoing efforts as the reason for her award.
Szymura routinely makes herself available to her members, on and off work hours, to answer calls and assist them. “Anytime I’ve needed to contact her, she’s always made herself available, even nights and weekends,” said Weaver.
Szymura is also often directly involved in resolving issues her members have with management.
“She has gone above and beyond the call of duty for her members,” said Western Region President Flo Tripi, who presented the award to Szymura.
One of Szymura’s many accomplishments has been to foster the growth of the Erie County Local’s Next Wave Committee, which has developed many new women activists.
Szymura recognizes the importance of this in fostering the next generation of leaders for CSEA. “We embrace them and help them to move forward,” she said.
Szymura also resurrected her local’s Women’s Committee several years ago, helping lead the committee’s efforts to help people in need in their communities.
Szymura has been representing members since 1996, when she was appointed as a unit grievance representative. Since then, she has served in many leadership positions in the Erie County Unit and Local before assuming her current position as local president.
Szymura maintained a humble approach to her accomplishments. “I just come to work every day and do my job, and just try to make sure the members are treated fairly,” she said. “I’ll continue to do what I come to work to do every day.”
— Mathew Cantore