PLATTSBURGH — Members first.
This motto guides Clinton County Local President Joe Musso’s activism.
A Long Island native who planted roots in Plattsburgh after graduating from college there, Musso’s county career and union involvement run parallel and have spanned decades.
Musso recalls being selected to participate in a CSEA-sponsored LDI (Leadership Development Institute), a precursor to today’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program back in the early 1980s.
The course material included a pyramid detailing CSEA’s union structure with members on the bottom and AFSCME and the AFL-CIO parent unions on the top.
That didn’t sit right with Musso.
“The pyramid is upside down,” Musso recalled saying to other participants. “Members should be on the top!”
Musso’s “members first” motto also translates to “three Cs” that are essential to a strong union — contact, communication and connections.
In Clinton County, new county hires are contacted by a local activist for orientation to our union and given the opportunity to learn the benefits of membership and to sign a card to join. The local’s membership committee provides context and continuity by hosting trainings and meetings.
Always dedicated to strengthening the community, the local has an active Strong Communities Work committee that assists in community projects like Habitat for Humanity and a local backpack program providing nutrition to families in need. The local also sponsors roadways and Little League teams.
Member communications happen through channels old and new, ranging from bulletin boards to Facebook.
These ongoing efforts to build our union have kept CSEA strong in the North Country.
This past spring, Musso took on a Herculean task: Run a member engagement outreach initiative to connect with every member in their homes over multiple weekends and weeknights.
“I always prided myself on knowing everyone, but with people retiring and new employees coming in, it’s hard to keep up with everyone,” he said. “There were times where I would feel disconnected, but not anymore.”
The effort is powered by 40 member volunteers and the buzz surrounding the home visits has buoyed all involved.
“People have been saying, ‘we were waiting for you,’ or ‘when are you coming to my house?’” said Musso. Musso is seeing the benefits of multiple outreach efforts.
“You reach people at a personal level and everyone responds to that,” he said.
To date, the local’s effort has reached hundreds of members.
How long will it continue?
“Until we reach everyone,” said Musso, smiling.
— Therese Assalian