For her many years of activism, Heater recently received our union’s Donald Webster Award for Mission Achievement, which is awarded to a retiree who shows the importance of staying union and staying strong.

“[Heater’s] been fighting for our members forever,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said while presenting the award to Heater at our recent Retiree Delegates Meeting. “She helped build our union and she has always worked for our members.”

“For more than four decades, Sally has worked nonstop for working men and women,” Central Region President Colleen Wheaton said. “She keeps fighting to keep our union strong and she will never quit on our union. Sally really deserves this award for all of her hard work on behalf of our retirees and working members.”

Heater, who became a CSEA member soon after starting a job with Onondaga County in 1971, said she realized the benefits of belonging to our union early in her employment through CSEA member-only insurance.
Heater’s dedication extends beyond our member-only benefits.

“One of the benefits of belonging to a union is making a good life for my children,” she said. “Our union made a nice life for me. I wanted to [make a nice life]for everyone else in our union.”

While employed with Onondaga County’s Health Department, she served in unit and local leadership roles with the Onondaga County Local, including helping negotiate contracts.

Sally Heater, who serves on CSEA’s Standing Women’s Committee, distributes local maps to 2017 Women’s Conference attendees.

Heater retired from the county several years ago, but didn’t retire from our union. In fact, she serves our union in many roles today, including secretary of our Syracuse Area Retirees Local, as treasurer and Onondaga County Chapter Representative of CSEA/VOICE Local 100A and many committees.

“She has been a union activist for virtually all the years of her membership and she is always out front,” said Syracuse Area Retirees Local President Charlotte Adkins in her nomination of Heater for the Webster Award.

“CSEA is Sally’s family almost as much as her own family.”

Heater, who is known for involving her children and grandchildren in union and community activities, said she keeps up her activism because she believes in our union.

“We have to work hard to tell our children and grandchildren what we have worked for,” Heater said. “I am sticking with our union and we all need to stick together. My dying breath will be CSEA.”

— Janice Gavin

In this 2017 file photo, from left, Central Region activists Sally Heater, Lori Nilsson and Janet Jackson, far, right, discuss our union’s concerns about the state budget proposal with State Sen. John DeFrancisco in his Syracuse district office.

About Author

Janice Gavin

Janice Gavin is the editor of The Work Force and CSEA’s special interest publications, Essentially Women, Retiree News and Canary. A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh and Syracuse University, Gavin has been a journalist and public relations professional for more than 20 years. She worked as a newspaper reporter and bureau chief at the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, where she was honored with Associated Press and New York Newspaper Publishers Association awards. Gavin joined CSEA as a communications specialist in the union's Southern Region in 2000. In 2004, she became The Work Force's associate editor, a position she held until becoming the publication's editor in 2017. Growing up in a union household, she is dedicated to improving workers’ lives through telling their stories.

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