WAMPSVILLE — Earlier this year, CSEA was busy preparing to send teams of union activists and staff to rural Madison County to reach out to our members at their homes as part of our union’s latest targeted member engagement efforts.

That didn’t end up happening — for all the right reasons.

In an effort that exemplifies “rise to the occasion,” our Madison County Local officers decided they weren’t going to expend our union’s resources bringing in people from the outside. They were determined to get the work done themselves.

“When we learned that they were planning a ‘blitz’ for our area, that’s when we kicked this into high gear,” said Madison County Local President Betty Jo Johnson. “We knew that we didn’t need staff and activists coming in from all over; we could take care of this on our own.”

That’s exactly what they did. Madison County Local officers had already reached out to some union members at the local’s holiday party, getting members to fill out “Never Quit” cards, but they knew there was more outreach to be done.

At the local’s next executive board meeting, Madison County Local Executive Vice President Karen Bright cornered each of the local’s seven unit presidents and didn’t let them leave until they had set up a schedule of work site lunch or outside-of-work “tailgate” style meetings.

“We had an extremely positive response with members signing Never Quit cards and vowing to stay union members,” Bright said.

“We probably had a 98 percent positive response rate,” said Johnson.

For workers in the county’s White-Collar Unit, local officers folded their Never Quit presentations into small departmental lunch meetings held to discuss upcoming contract negotiations. Seeking a quicker resolution to contract talks, management provided meeting space and access to union members.

“It was easier to discuss staying union strong within the context of contract negotiations,” Johnson said.

Bright also credited their unit presidents with keeping the momentum going.

“We need to give a shout-out to our unit presidents,” Bright said. “Even after the meetings were held, they continued to hold one-on-one meetings with members to get cards signed.”

— Mark M. Kotzin

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Mark Kotzin has been advocating on behalf of union members in CSEA's Central Region for more than 28 years, directing our Union's regional communications and public relations initiatives, helping build power on behalf of more than 45,000 active and retired union members throughout 20 counties in Central New York. Mark is a proud graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse, a 12+ gallon blood donor, and a passionate advocate for building workers' power through collective action!

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