Left, Southern Tier State Employees Local 1st Vice President Robert Eastwood Sr., a highway maintenance worker 2 at DOT in Owego, and Schoharie Residency DOT Local President David Hendrick Jr., right, visit with a member in Washington County.

LAKE GEORGE — When CSEA State Department of Transportation (DOT) local presidents gathered for their recent annual conference, something new happened.

For the first time ever, nearly 20 DOT local presidents from across the state hit the pavement in Washington and Warren counties to share information and listen to member concerns.

“The blitz [member engagement action]was actually thought of last year at our Presidents’ Conference in Syracuse by Statewide Labor-Management Chair Chuck Parsons,” said CSEA Transportation Region 1 Local President Mike Garfolo, whose local includes the DOT members who were visited. “Of course, I approved of the idea and was excited to get out and talk with the members in my region.”

The group visited 40 homes in one night, a tall order given the fact that homes are spread out in Warren and Washington counties.

One-on-one-conversations with dozens of members gave CSEA leaders the venue to ensure information about CSEA’s continued advocacy and engagement to make work zones safer is reaching our members.

CSEA Transportation Region 1 Local President Mike Garfolo, right, offers new information to Randy DeCook, a highway maintenance worker in Garfolo’s local who lives in Warren County.

“United we are strong; divided we are weak,” Garfolo said. “I strongly believe this. Our members are the lifeblood of CSEA, and their involvement is critical for our further success. We want to make sure our members know this.”

Our union’s Occupational Safety and Health Department has continued to beat the drum about the state’s Move Over Law, ending distracted driving and educating the public with coordinated statewide and national campaigns like the “Don’t Zone Out” and “Drive Like You Work Here” campaigns. This work continues to be of the most importance to our members.

Just as every good conversation, the information flowed both ways.

“Meeting with members one-on-one was a great experience for me as a union leader as well,” Garfolo said.

“I learned that sometimes the information that I send through does not always reach the membership. The one-on-one conversations we had [during this action]revealed that I will have to do more following up at the member end.”

Schoharie Residency DOT Local President David Hendrick Jr. and Statewide Secretary Denise Berkley prepare to visit with members.

Statewide Secretary Denise Berkley also participated in reaching out to our members. Her infectious enthusiasm and prior member engagement experience was very helpful as this group learned this new way of communicating.

“Member engagement actions have become an important part of our union’s communication,” Berkley said.

“With each one-on-one conversation, everyone is learning. Information is passed from leader to member, and from member back to leadership. Everyone benefits and this makes us stronger. I am delighted to have been witness to the energy and positivity that came from DOT. This blitz served as a model that I believe will continue to serve all DOT members well in the future.”

— Jill Asencio


About Author

Jill Asencio is the statewide communications specialist assigned to CSEA Headquarters in Albany. She is a summa cum laude graduate of The College of Saint Rose and award-winning photo/video journalist and public relations professional. As part of CSEA’s communication team since 2007, she found her passion in labor, advocating for children and New York’s working families. Asencio understands first-hand the value of growing up in a union household and the deep connection unions have in ensuring strong, educated and healthy families.

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