WEST NYACK — You don’t have to be a CSEA officer to help build a stronger union.
All it takes is time, dedication and a willingness to step up.
Elizabeth Lemitelamy is proof of that.
A CSEA member working as a bus aide for Rockland BOCES, Lemitelamy used time between bus runs for internal organizing, converting agency shop fee payers in her bargaining unit to full CSEA members.
Thanks to her efforts, CSEA membership nearly doubled in the Rockland BOCES Unit in just a few short months.
Her efforts earned her our union’s 2017 CSEA Membership Achievement Award after a co-worker nominated her for the honor.
Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo and Southern Region Treasurer Tatiana DeLuna-Evans recently joined Lemitelamy’s co-workers for an after-work gathering, where they surprised her with the award.
Becoming an activist
When she volunteered to work on converting agency shop fee payers, Lemitelamy wasn’t just new to union activism. One of the youngest workers in her bargaining unit at age 23, the job at Rockland BOCES was her first union job.
Having heard about unions from her father, a longtime CSEA member and custodian at Rockland BOCES, she learned more about our union by attending unit meetings and reading The Work Force.
“I had a gap between bus runs, so I figured this was somewhere I could help,” Lemitelamy said about signing up members.
She began having one-on-one conversations with members, telling them about the benefits available through our union and explaining how a stronger union helps at the bargaining table.
Normally a quiet and reserved person, Lemitelamy said the outreach gave her a chance to come out of her shell.
“I care about everybody here, so I was happy I was able to help in some way,” she said.
The union difference
With some time under her belt now as a CSEA member, Lemitelamy can speak about the difference between union and non-union work sites. A previous job as a dietary aide at a nursing home came without the benefits she receives in her current job, nor did it allow her a voice in her workplace.
“Now, if there’s an opportunity, I’ll take it,” said Lemitelamy.
After learning last year about the AFSCME Free College Benefit, Lemitelamy signed up and is now working toward an associate degree in early childhood education.
Having found her niche working with students on the autism spectrum attending the Jesse J. Kaplan School at Rockland BOCES, Lemitelamy hopes to work there as a teacher once she completes her degree.
Her co-workers are proud to see her progress.
“She’s a go-getter,” said Unit President Carol Rudnitsky. “It’s very important that people choose to be part of the union, and Elizabeth is a great example of how far it can take you.”
— Jessica Ladlee
For information about the AFSCME Free College Benefit visit freecollege.afscme.org or call 888-590-9009.