Webster — At a time when many unionized working people are being attacked by corporate interests, vilified by the media, taken for granted by neighbors or even having their mere existence challenged, the steadfast employees who work at the Town of Webster Highway and Sewer Departments would tell you none of that keeps them from delivering on their promise of serving their community with pride and distinction.
First chartered more than 4o years ago, the CSEA Town of Webster union employees have a long and storied past of providing excellent service to the sprawling Ontario lakefront community in northeastern Monroe County.
Since negotiating the first blue collar contract in 1978, members have enjoyed a respectful relationship with management and have maintained a well-deserved reputation as being one of the finest workforces anywhere. With more than 60 full time employees in two different bargaining units, the white collar and blue-collar divisions have also managed to maintain a one-hundred percent membership rate for more than two decades.
Retired in 2014, CSEA officer and activist Sue Trottier, who logged almost thirty years of employment with the Town of Webster, said developing personal relationships with coworkers and town leaders were critical to establishing a healthy workplace and a fortified union.
“I can’t remember a time when a highway or sewer employee was not an active card-carrying member,” said Trottier. “We educated new employees about the value of union membership during their first orientation session. We explained the union was more important than our individual selves—that to have a safe workplace and negotiate good contracts we must speak with one voice. Once we explained the key role of the union, it just became a no-brainer for them.”
Nancy Steele, who is a senior clerk at the Highway Department, says the union has always had a prominent place at work. “We developed a culture of solidarity and competence that reinforced the idea being an active member in the union and doing your part was necessary if we were going to succeed as a team,” she said. “We have always had strong CSEA leadership here at the Town of Webster, and I am very grateful for all the challenging work that took place before I got here 18 years ago.”
Blue collar Unit President John Leckinger explained his union’s full membership status as buying into the notion of a brotherhood and sisterhood. “Our common thread here at work is we all have each other’s back. The union is the helping hand you get when things get tough or unbearable—we are here for each other and we are truly stronger together. This is not a secret formula. This is just common sense. We take care of our own.”
– Ove Overmyer