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A Publication of the CSEA Region 5 Leadership Education Series

CSEA Educational Newsletter Articles Developed by CSEA Communications Specialist Mark Kotzin

A collection of ready-to-reprint articles to educate your members about our union.

Colleen Wheaton, President

A Foreword from CSEA Communications Specialist Mark Kotzin

In my travels throughout our Region, I regularly consult with union newsletter editors about what they can do to enhance their newsletters, and what they should write about. I always tell them that their newsletter content should be evenly divided between three categories: inspiration, information and education. Inspiration can come from our elected leaders or activists who are impassioned about what they are doing as part of our union. When someone is passionate about something, it can have an infectious quality, making other people want to experience what fires people up. We hope that our newsletters can inspire some of our members to get involved by hearing messages of inspiration from their leadership. Information is what we believe as union leaders and activists that our members need to know. It is the issues we are dealing with, the fights we are fighting, and the solutions we are bringing to the workplace problems that our members are presented with. It is when we are meeting, what is happening at our meetings, how we are spending our dues money, and what’s generally going on with the union. Education is the third cornerstone of any successful newsletter. Unfortunately, this piece is often overlooked, because many leaders and activists take it for granted that our members know as much as they do about the inner workings of our union, and how members can get involved. This is rarely the case, so to build our union and motivate members to participate, we must reach out to those rank-and-file members who do not know the basics about our union representation, structure and opportunities, and develop a regular agenda of member education. To help editors with the educational piece of their mission, I’ve assembled the following collection of general educational articles on topics that apply to most workplaces and most union members. Please feel free to reprint them as is, or to edit them to best conform to your individual Unit or work locations. NOTE: For ease of re-printing, these articles are published online on our Region web site so you can just cut-and-paste. For the entire article archive, please visit:



Index of Articles

Articles about CSEA’s Structure & Operations n n n n n n n n n n

Why Pay Union Dues?.....................................................................................................5-7 Why We Need to Build Our Union.................................................................................8, 9 Member vs. Agency Shop; What's the Difference?...........................................................10 Why Union Community Service?.................................................................................11,12 InfoDays: Bringing Our Union to You..............................................................................13 Why Have A Newsletter?..................................................................................................14 What Do You Want From YOUR Union?........................................................................15 How to be a good Union Member................................................................................16,17 Your rights as a union member .........................................................................................18 How Does CSEA Pick The Candidates It Backs In Elections?.........................................19

Articles about Contract Negotiations & Other Struggles n n n

Our Union Contract...........................................................................................................21 Impasse: What Does It Mean?......................................................................................22,23 Mobilizing to Fight Our Battles...................................................................................24, 25

Articles about our CSEA Staff Services n n n

Know Your LRS................................................................................................................27 Meet our Union's Staff Professionals..........................................................................28, 29 Why Don’t I See More of CSEA in My Workplace?........................................................30

Articles focusing on specific times of the year: n n n n

Dr. King's Labor Legacy (February - Black History Month)............................................32 Honoring The Fallen (April - Workers Memorial Day)....................................................33 Celebrating Labor Day (September - Labor Day).............................................................34 Your Vote Counts! (November - Election Day)................................................................35

Clip Art.................................................................................................................................Page 36


Articles about CSEA’s Structure and Operations


Why Pay Union Dues? Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and most people admit it’s worth paying for things that have a direct benefit or value to them. As union leaders, we are always asked to justify the cost of our union dues.

Important but intangible Our greatest challenge in doing so is that much of what our members get in return for their dues is intangible. Job security and contractual protections, for example, are not something you can touch or assign a specific cash amount to, but almost everyone would agree they add a significant value to their livelihood. We also spend a large amount of our resources fighting on behalf of a smaller segment of our overall membership at any given time -- those who are disciplined, wrongly accused or those facing a contract battle, budget fight, or the like. Does that make those fights any less important? Not to those we’re fighting for. And not to you, if someday you need us to fight for you. Often the union is like a good insurance policy – you may not like having to pay for it, but boy are you’re glad you did if you ever need ust, and you never know when and if you will. Similarly, much of our dues goes to pay for our union’s professional staff – several hundred across the state and at our Albany headquarters. While many activist members are familiar with their Labor Relations Specialist or some of our Regional staff professionals, many of our staff do not regularly interact with members at their workplace, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hard at work helping to run our operations. Unfortunately, out of sight is often out of mind, but these workers and their valued services (more on them to follow) should not be taken for granted. Would it surprise you to hear that many of our members think their union dues are too high? Probably not, because we always hear complaints, but interestingly enough, they don’t come from our activists. It seems that those who take the time to get involved in the union become much more aware of the many benefits and services we get as a result of our union dues. For them, those benefits and services return a value that make their dues money well spent. We also compare our dues structure to what other unions charge. We believe our rates to be among the most competitive for the range of benefits and services we deliver.

Fiscally responsible You should also know that as the stewards of your money, it is a responsibility we take very seriously, and CSEA has put into place many safeguards and regulations to make sure that our finances are spent responsibly and in accordance with all laws and accepted accounting standards. One thing we do not stand for and will actively investigate and prosecute is financial mishandling of our members’ dues monies. To this end we: · · · · · · ·

Ensure that all our Treasurers are properly trained through mandatory Treasurer’s Training; Bond our elected officers to insure that the union is held harmless in the unlikely event of any financial transgressions; Have a written Financial Standards Code that must be followed by union officials; Have an internal Judicial Board that investigates and prosecutes any allegations of misconduct; Submit our financial reports to the Federal Labor Department as required; Have a mandatory audit process at every level to ensure that budgets are in compliance with our financial standards and all laws; and Require changes to our dues structure to be voted on by your elected Delegates, to ensure your voice is heard in our union democracy. -more5

That being said, our job as union leaders is to help you understand what your dues money pays for – tangible or not, so that you can be aware what a value you actually receive for the money you put in. So here is a brief listing of the many things you get back in exchange for your union dues, followed by a breakdown of how every dollar is spent.

Protection: When And If You Need It As stated previously, your CSEA membership provides protections you may never need, but you have the security of knowing are there if you do. Those protections include: a grievance process to fight contract violations; a union attorney free-of-charge for arbitrations; the ability to file Improper Practice Charges to fight state labor law violations; due process for disciplinary matters; local attorneys on retainer for job-related legal matters; staff assistance developing strategic campaigns to fight issues that threaten jobs such as budget cuts, consolidation, and contracting-out; and a binding, legal contract giving you guaranteed rights and protections as an employee.

Local, Professional Staff Representation Our CSEA Region staff professionals work out of the union’s Satellite Offices in Binghamton and Canton and the Region Office in East Syracuse. They work closely with your elected Unit and Local officers to mentor, train, and help deliver the union’s service to you in a timely and professional manner. They are available at all times to assist your leaders with your labor relations needs. Those professionals include: Labor Relations Specialist; Occupational Safety & Health Specialist; Communications Specialist; Political Action Coordinator; Organizer; Region Director; and support staff.

Outstanding Member-Only Benefits Probably one of the most noticeable ways you can see your CSEA membership paying you back is through your available union benefits. These benefits and discounts, gained through the mass buying power of thousands of union members across New York and millions across the nation, combine to give you more value for your union dues dollar than any other union. CSEA has a Member Benefits Department that works hard to add even more benefits and helps get the word out about the ones you currently enjoy. Among those benefits are: career development services, a discount buying service; travel discounts; college scholarships; optional insurance plans; free retirement counseling; and more! Visit CSEA’s website at for a more complete listing.

A Statewide Support Network The union employs a centralized professional staff in Albany to support our activists and the staff professionals working with you in our Regions. CSEA’s size makes it possible to provide a level of professional staff services not traditionally available from other labor unions. Support services such as: a Safety and Health Department with a certified Industrial Hygienist and other Safety specialists; a Research Department with budget analysis services to back up your negotiations; a Field and Member Services Department to keep an eye on your issues and assign appropriate staff, as well as assist with member mobilization efforts; a large, in-house Legal Department to handle cases, answer questions, file suits on your behalf; our Communications Department to help promote CSEA’s messages to the public and to keep in touch with you; an in-house Print Shop to handle our printing needs; our Information Technology Department helping keep CSEA on the forefront of technology and linking CSEA’s Headquarters, Region, and Satellite Offices; an Education & Training Department to help train CSEA’s leaders, activists and members to run a better union; and our powerful and respected Political Action Department which helps promote pro-public employee legislation, works to get rid of anti-union public officials, and assists in strategic campaigns to pressure our Legislators to keep public services public, give us fair wage increases, and stop management from trying to balance their budgets on our backs.


A National Support Network Beyond the Albany connection lie your ties to millions of union members across the nation, through CSEA’s affiliation with AFSCME, one of the largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO. This international union network not only gives us more clout and a stronger voice in New York State, it also gives us: the support of more than 500,000 AFSCME members across New York State; professional staff assistance from AFSCME staff where required or requested; protection from being raided by other unions in the house of labor; Federal political clout on national issues that could effect your job or livelihood, such as the recent fight to save Social Security; and access to national benefit programs like the AFSCME Advantage MasterCard, Home Mortgage Program, Career Counseling and Personal Legal Services Plan.

Money Back Locally CSEA’s Constitution guarantees that 1/4 of your dues money is returned to your CSEA Local to be spent on you. That money can be used for negotiating expenses, membership meetings, member/officer training, office supplies, information days, social gatherings, and other direct benefits to you. A portion is also rebated back to individual Units for similar expenditures.

Overall Breakdown Overall, you can see that the money you send to Albany for dues comes back to you in many different ways. For every dollar you send us, here is how it breaks down into expenditures: · · · · · · · ·

Staff salaries and expenditures - .31 Mileage and business travel - .06 Headquarters, Regional & Satellite Offices - .06 Legal Assistance & Communications - .10 Local rebate - .17 Conventions, Education & Training - .02 Affiliation dues - .25 Political Action - .03

We hope that this somewhat lengthy explanation makes it easier for you to understand the value you get for your union dues. If you have any further questions about how your dues money is spent locally, you should talk to your Local or Unit treasurer, who should be able to answer them or direct you to the appropriate source of information.


Building our union: Why and how we should do it How the “that’s what I pay dues for” mentality breaks down our effectiveness and what it really means to be a member-run union Many of our rank and file members have never understood how CSEA is structured to function as a memberrun union. Because of that, they frequently expect our union’s elected officers and professional staff to run the union for them, because “that’s what we pay dues for.” This false understanding of our structure severely limits our ability to function effectively for all our members.

Power from the People The power of CSEA does not come from our elected officers, or our paid professional staff. It comes from our rank-and-file members -- those who pay dues, who stand united on common issues and concerns, and who take the time and initiative to get involved. Sure, paying union dues helps CSEA administer many benefits, programs and services for our members, but it does not change our basic member-run structure. Our members still lead our union, and maintain a responsibility to participate to the best of their abilities. Yes, we do have an excellent team of staff professionals to offer guidance, advice, mentoring and training to our elected officials and members. And yes, CSEA does invest a lot of time, money and education to help our elected officers be the best and most effective representatives they can be, giving them the tools they need to effectively represent their members. But in order to truly be effective, CSEA needs our members to do their part as well. One of the popular analogies we like to use is that it’s hard to do battle if it’s only the generals charging up the hill, without their armies behind them. Our union is not only member-run, but we are also New York’s most democratic union. We allow all dues-paying members in good standing to take part in the union in so many ways: by electing our representatives at every level of the union – from statewide, to locals/units, to those who serve on our Board of Directors; by running for union office; by voting on our contracts; by electing those who vote on changes to our Constitution & ByLaws; by conducting our business in an open and transparent manner; by serving on union committees; by constantly seeking volunteer involvement; by attending union meetings; and by participating in union functions or activities.

Fighting The Enemies of Solidarity Like most unions built on the foundations of worker solidarity and unity, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Without participation from the membership, we cannot as easily achieve our common goals. We must constantly work as hard as we can to build and strengthen our union. To do so, we fight several common enemies: Ÿ Lack of awareness: When our members don’t know what we’re all about, what we can do by working together, when we meet, and about opportunities to participate, we lose some of our effectiveness. A few ways to combat this are new employee union orientations, regular meetings, union information days, and increased communications (see below).


Ÿ Apathy: If our members don’t feel that they get anything from our union, they are naturally hesitant to take part. We must work to keep the union relevant to all members, so that we can get workers involved and active. Ÿ Time constraints: We all lead busy lives. It takes time to hold meetings and to get the work of the union done. The more people who volunteer a little time, the less time it takes overall to get things done. All we ask is that you do what you can in the time you have available. We’re all volunteers here, and we can use all the help we can get. Ÿ Disenfranchisement: In CSEA we strive to be inclusive, NOT exclusive. We must always reach out to all workers who are affected by our issues and not just the ones close by. Better workplace mapping and increased communications (see below) can help in this regard. Ÿ Poor communications: We can be as strong and effective as we want, but if we fail to communicate properly with our members and other stakeholders, we limit our ability to function and motivate people to participation. With increases in technology come new ways to communicate -- from e-mail to web sites, from bulletin boards to newsletters -- we must utilize every available means to get our union’s message out to our members and others we communicate with.

Tools for Building Our Union, Our Future Union building pays off in many ways, from strengthening us at the negotiating table, to improving our working conditions and our workplace morale. It can even have personal benefits, giving activists a newfound sense of purpose, enhancing their leadership skills, and even affording them a new social outlet. The union can serve many people in many ways; it just takes a continuous effort to keep building steam. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for building our union and boosting our effectiveness: Ÿ Increase Outreach – Map our workplaces and know who works where. Try and get volunteers from all locations to participate and make sure notices are posted everywhere. Have contact people at every work location. Ÿ Increase regular communications – Start a union newsletter or web site. Make sure your bulletin boards are regularly updated with fresh, relevant information. Hold regular meetings – face-to-face communications is always more effective. Collect personal e-mail addresses for quick news updates. Ÿ Increase member/leader education – Hold new employee orientations, setup union Information Days and take part in trainings offered by the union’s Education & Training Department. For specialized needs, schedule a specialized training at or near your workplace. Ÿ Increase contact with union staff professionals – our union does not stop at the Local or Unit level. If our professional union staff are made aware of issues, they can assist with accessing resources from our entire organization, and help to mobilize members to help their brothers and sisters in our struggles. Remember to call on your union staff, invite them to your meetings, and bring them into your worksites when appropriate. Working together, all of us united, we can help build our union, and our future.


Member vs. Agency Fee Payor: What’s the big difference? Many people don’t understand the difference between a CSEA dues-paying member and an agency fee payor. In fact, many people represented by the union mistakenly believe they are full-fledged members of CSEA, when in fact they are not. Let’s examine the difference. As a union, CSEA has a duty to represent any worker holding a title in our bargaining unit. Due to state law, everyone protected by the union must pay for their representation, either by paying union dues, or an equivalent amount called an “agency fee.” The agency fee law makes it so that the union doesn’t have people ‘freeloading’ off of other members; getting the benefits of our excellent representation, without having to pay for it. It’s only fair. So just by getting a job in a CSEA-represented title, you’re automatically an agency fee payor, represented by CSEA, but that DOES NOT automatically make you a dues-paying member. In order to become a full member of this union, with all the rights and privileges associated with membership (more about those in a moment), you actually have to sign a dues authorization or membership card and submit it to CSEA. Once you do that, you’re in – you’ve become an official dues-paying union member – and it doesn’t cost a penny more! What signing that card does mean for you is that you open yourself up to more rights and benefits than you had before. Chiefly, and most important to the majority of workers we talk to, is the right to vote on your union contract, and to vote for your union officers. You can even run for union office yourself, once you’re a dues-paying member. Agency fee payors CANNOT participate in these opportunities. We often ask agency fee payors, why would you allow yourself to pay the same as dues, but not have a voice in your contract and how your union is run? You’re paying for it anyway; you might as well take advantage of our full union democracy. By becoming a full dues-paying member, you also gain access to all of CSEA’s member-only benefits. These are benefits offered outside of the realm of the union contract, only for union members. Many are offered through our affiliations with AFSCME and the AFL-CIO, and also due to our immense buying power as a labor union with nearly 300,000 members statewide. Such benefits include: all of our optional group insurance plans (often with the convenience of payroll deduction); the AFSCME Advantage MasterCard; loan programs; discount shopping programs; a subscription to CSEA’s monthly newspaper; and more. You can find out more about our members-only benefits by visiting CSEA’s website at How do you know if you’re NOT a dues-paying CSEA member? Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to tell. One good clue is that you don’t receive the CSEA monthly newspaper, The Work Force. Also, your paycheck may have a code next to your union deduction that designates “Agency” instead of “Dues” or something similar. Many times, people don’t find out their true status until it’s time for a union vote, and their name does not appear on an official membership list. By then, it’s usually to late to sign up to participate in that election. If you’re not sure, you can always contact CSEA’s Membership Department at 800-342-4146, ext. 1331. So maybe you’ve never been approached to sign a membership card before. Maybe you said you’d get around to it, and just haven’t found the time. Maybe you were a member, but went on a leave for more than six months and allowed your membership to lapse. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to sign up. To get an official membership application, ask your nearest Unit or Local Officer, call CSEA at 800-559-7975, or download one from The rest is up to you.


Why Union Community Service? As public service workers, we are already integrally involved in our communities, and many of our members are individually involved in community organizations, charities and service groups. But the same thing that brings us together in the workplace -- the concept of strength in numbers -- is the same thing that can and should make us a driving force in our communities by developing union-sponsored community service programs and initiatives. Not only do these things bring us together for the common good, and serve a useful function in our community, but it also puts a better, more human face on CSEA and our members, so that when we look for public support in our contract and other struggles, people who we've helped are more likely to return the favor. When it comes to seeking public support, we cannot underestimate the value of good will generated by our past visible community efforts. Joining together in Community service also gives our members another means to participate in a union activity. You may have co-workers who would never find it interesting to come to a membership meeting or volunteer for some worksite union activity. Those same co-workers, however, might get energized over participating in a union-sponsored community service project. As we’re always seeking more ways to involve more members, this is another great way to reach out and build our union. And it’s not as hard as you might think. It could be as simple as setting up a workplace drive to collect food, toys, clothing or even blood. It could be as advanced as putting together a walk-a-thon, run-a-thon, bike-a-thon, bowl-a-thon or phone-a-thon to raise money for local charities. Or it could be having your CSEA members donate their time and talents to do neighborhood cleanup or improvement projects, or plant flowers, or build houses! The possibilities are only limited by the amount of time and energy your union and your co-workers are willing to invest. Other union Locals have done these types of events very successfully. And we don’t have to wait for the holidays to do our event. In fact, due to the large number of charity events and community service initiatives that go on during the holiday season, we actually stand a better chance of gaining volunteers and getting visibility for our efforts if we do our project at any other time of the year. Whatever the event, it should be your Local's own effort. If you would like assistance in coming up with an event idea, please talk to a representative of our Region Member Services Committee -- they'll be glad to help. On e good idea is to tie in your Community Service Project with a program or charity that your members are already involved in or skilled at (see below for a listing). Ultimately, our success with Community Service Projects depends on two factors -- getting our members to participate and publicizing what we've done. Our CSEA Region Communications Specialist has the expertise to assist your Local or Unit with both, getting the word out through fliers, postcard mailings, and even our Region Web site, and helping you contact the media to get coverage of our efforts. Call him at 800-559-7975 ext. 4227, for assistance.


Find charities/programs with natural CSEA “Tie-Ins” such as: Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ

Children’s hospitals where we represent workers; Camp/youth programs operated by municipalities we represent; Social Service-related charities; School programs where we represent district support staff; Office for Aging programs; Veteran’s Affairs programs; Literacy programs held at libraries run by our members; Child safety program with DSS or Health Department workers.

Or, try to “tie-in” the talents/skills that our members have through their jobs, for example: Ÿ Have tradespeople work on construction projects, i.e. Habitat for Humanity; Ÿ Have bus drivers volunteer for Meals on Wheels; Ÿ Have groundspeople volunteer to work on community beautification projects; Ÿ Have phone operators work on telethon-type events.


InfoDays: Bringing Our Union to YOU With life getting busier by the day, it seems that fewer and fewer people have time to attend Union meetings or functions, or to read about the union in our CSEA newspaper, so our leaders are faced with a very real challenge -- how can we get the word out to our members about all the benefits and services available through CSEA membership? Here’s one way… if we can't bring the members to the union, we bring the union to the members -- with a CSEA Info Day. The concept of an Info Day is very basic. CSEA will set it up at your workplace (with permission from management) or a nearby location, where our CSEA Region staff professionals and the benefit providers who provide us services can set up tables explaining what services/benefits they provide. This is an excellent opportunity to pick up materials and ask questions of those who know best about our benefits and services. We try and plan these opportunities to coincide with lunchtimes, shift changes or break periods, so that you don't have to miss work in order to attend. Additionally, food is often provided by the Local or Unit sponsoring the event, and there are usually door prizes and free giveaways available. Some of the usual benefit providers who attend include: · A CSEA Member Benefits Specialist · A CSEA Employee Benefit Fund representative (for those with EBF vision and dental programs) · Your CSEA Communications Specialist · Your CSEA Political Action Coordinator · Your CSEA Occupational Safety & Health Specialist · Your CSEA Labor Relations Specialist · A CSEA Organizer · A CSEA/AFSCME P.E.O.P.L.E. Program representative · A CSEA/NYS Labor-Management Committee representative (for State employees) · Pearl Carroll & Associates - Our exclusive provider for CSEA optional insurance plans and free Retirement Counseling services · A representative from Empire/Davis Vision (offering discount vision care services) · Representatives from your Health Benefit providers · A representative from your Credit Union · And many, more! CSEA is happy to set up Information Days for any group of members. The union even has a guidebook available to assist in planning your event. Talk to your local CSEA Leadership, or have them call your CSEA Communications Specialist at 800-559-7975 to discuss bringing YOUR union to YOU.


Why Have A Union Newsletter? Because we are a member-run union, in order to make our union function successfully, we must do everything we can to communicate regularly with our members and keep everyone informed, and hopefully more involved. We realize that in order for members to participate in our union functions, they must know when they are and what’s going on. The best way to communicate is always face-to-face, so that people can get their questions answered and our union officers know that their message is being heard and understood, but we know that it’s often impractical to speak face-to-face with everyone, especially in larger workplaces. We also know that it’s tough to get people to attend meetings with everyone’s busy schedules, so one of the best ways we can get our message out through mass distribution is through a newsletter. The union newsletter can serve multiple purposes. It can give messages of inspiration from our leaders, and provide our members with an insight as to their elected officer’s visions of how they believe the union should function. It can also give information about what’s going on, what the union is currently involved in, accomplishments of union officers or members, and other general facts such as meeting dates, committee reports, and so on. We can use the union newsletter as a tool for education. Much of what we do as a union is somewhat involved and technical, and many rank-and-file workers find themselves confused over the processes we have to go through for things like grievances, arbitrations or contract negotiations. The newsletter can help educate our members about the behind-the-scenes operations of our union, and also let them know how they can participate. Inspiration, information, education. Three goals we can aspire to achieve through our newsletter. We can only reach those goals, however, if our members get the newsletter and take the time to read it. They will only do this if they feel the news includes them or their workplace, and is relevant to them. In order to do this, we need to know what YOU want to read about. Would you like to read worker profiles, articles about what happens at conferences, committee meeting reports, or just more general educational articles? If you let us know that you’ll read it, we’ll take the time to write it. Lastly, you should know that putting together a newsletter can be a time-consuming process, and it’s being done by workers just like you. It goes faster, however, and becomes more representative of all our work locations and job titles if we have more people working on it. So if you like what you see, or you want to volunteer to help make it better, give our Newsletter Editor a call and offer up your help. We’ll be glad you did!


What Do YOU Want from YOUR Union? We say it a lot, but we’re not sure how many members actually get the fact that this is THEIR union. We really are a member-run union, and our success or failure hinges upon the involvement and participation of the people who we represent. So it’s really up to you what you get from YOUR union. Are you someone who likes getting involved and helping make changes that will positively impact our workplaces? Or are you someone who doesn’t want to get involved, and you’re okay with the status quo? Maybe you’re happy with how your union functions, or maybe you think it’s time for a change. Either way, as your union officers, we can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. Put another way, we can’t do this all by ourselves. Some people have the strange notion that we get paid to represent them. Would it surprise you to learn that your union officers are all volunteers and don’t get any compensation, except for the occasional reimbursement for travel or other union expenses? Our union will always be stronger if we have participation. This could be members stepping up to serve on committees, run for union office, or simply registering their opinions as to what we should be doing as a union. We may be many things – dedicated, persistent, committed to fighting for our members, but there’s one thing we’re not – psychic. If you truly want our union to be the best it can be on behalf of all our members, then we need you to let us know how you feel about the direction your union is headed. Give us an idea of how we’re doing as officers. We’re not looking for accolades and awards here, we just want to know what you think we’re doing right, and what we can do better. And if, by chance, you might want to volunteer to join us in helping make our union better, why we’d be more than happy to have you aboard!


What YOUR Union Expects of YOU CSEA members often have great expectations of their union representatives, but many don’t realize that their union representatives have equal expectations of them. As a member-run union, YOU are CSEA, not just your elected officers and our professional union staff. In order to function effectively, we need you to do what you can to be a good union member. Unfortunately, most members have never gotten a good explanation of what that means, so here, in no particular order, is what you should do (please do as many as you can) to be a good union member: ·

Learn how our union is structured and who to contact with concerns or workplace issues. You need to know who to call if you need disciplinary protection or if your rights are being violated. Keep this information posted in your worksite.


Read your union contract. You can’t know your rights are being violated if you don’t know what they are.


Read our union newspaper. We try to include news from all over that’s relevant to all our members.


Visit - We regularly update the union’s web site with important information. Register with a member account, and you have access to member-only areas with valuable information.


Read your union mail. We try not to send mail that isn’t important, so please take the time to read whatever we send you.


Attend your union meetings if you can. We know it’s often hard to make time for union meetings, but if you can’t, you should provide your leadership alternate contact information. At minimum, take it upon yourself to find a union officer or someone who did attend a meeting and find out what occurred.


Volunteer if you can. Since 99 % of our union representatives are volunteers who step up to help their fellow workers, we are always looking for shop stewards, grievance representatives, committee members and future officers and leaders. If you can give some of your time, CSEA will provide the training to give you the tools to do the job right.


Vote on your contract. To give our union power, we must show our strength when it comes to voting on our contract. A weak turnout for a contract ratification vote signals a weak or apathetic membership, and can hamper our efforts to build our power and get better contracts in the future. You should also be aware of what’s going on during the negotiations process, and be supportive of your Negotiating Team as they work to get you a fair contract.


Vote for your union officers. Our union democracy is only strong when our members vote for their leadership at every level. These are the individuals who give you a voice at the statewide level and who work with our staff to get the work of the union done. We need to elect qualified members to properly represent us.


Join the CSEA/AFSCME P.E.O.P.L.E. Program. PEOPLE is our union’s federal lobbying arm that helps us fund the important national political battles that impact CSEA members and their workplaces. From fighting for increased funding for public facilities, to stopping the privatizing of Social Security, we can only do this if we all chip in a few dollars a paycheck to give us a say on the national political scene. -more-



Hold your union representatives accountable. Our union is only as strong as its weakest link, and in the rare case where representatives are not performing to the best of their ability, the union needs to know, so problems can be avoided. If you are dissatisfied with your union representation, advise your union leaders or staff so that we can work together to make a better union.


Hold your elected public officials accountable. We must keep an eye on candidates for public office who support our issues as union members, and who support the work we do as public workers, and exercise our privilege to vote in every election. When union members band together to vote for or against a candidate, it shows that we collectively have power that we don’t have as individuals.


Run for union office if you want to help make a difference. If no one steps up to fill our leadership positions, we end up with people who do it because no one else will. That’s no way to run a union, and we’re all about giving our leaders the tools and education to help be effective.


Take advantage of the many union trainings CSEA offers to give you the knowledge and skills to help properly advocate for your co-workers.


Ask new employees to join the union. If new workers come to the workplace, they don’t know that they’re not union members, and may never join unless asked. Give them information about who their union representatives are, try to set up a CSEA orientation for them, and give them a membership card to join.


Advocate for your fellow co-workers by reporting workplace issues. Your union representatives can’t handle your concerns or workplace problems if we aren’t aware of them. We cannot function effectively if everyone looks the other way or adopts an “I’ll let someone else do it for me” attitude. If you are aware of a workplace issue or safety concern, you have a responsibility to pass it along the union chain of command to make sure it can be addressed.


Be willing to stand up for someone else’s cause. Most CSEA members only get involved when they themselves are the ones being impacted. In order for the great power we gain from “Solidarity” to be effective, we must all be willing to step into the fight, even if we are not personally impacted. That also means you shouldn’t cross picket lines of other unions, and you should avoid supporting known anti-union employers.


Buy American! If everyone who complained about the loss of good-paying American jobs overseas would restrict himself or herself to buying American-made products and services, there would be a lot fewer job losses to complain about.


Mentor your younger co-workers in union activity. If you get involved with the union, share your successes with your co-workers and get them involved, so that we can build our future leadership and a sense of relevance for the union.


What YOU Can Expect From YOUR Union As a CSEA member, you have certain rights that you can expect from your union membership. Here is an overview of some of those rights: You have the right to join our union (or not). When you first come to work for a CSEA-represented organization, you should be informed of that right and invited to join the union by signing a dues authorization (membership) card. Due to the State’s Agency Fee law, you pay the same rate regardless, but signing that card gives you the ability to participate in union elections and gain valuable member-only benefits. If no one ever asked you to join the union, you can certainly take it upon yourself to ask your union leadership for a card to sign, or go online to to download a membership application. You have the right to be fairly represented. If your contract is violated, or you feel that your legal rights are being infringed upon, you have the responsibility to report that to your union leadership, often your certified grievance representative or shop steward, to initiate an investigation. Your union officers then have the responsibility to follow up in a timely manner to ensure the appropriate legal response (if there is one). If you feel that your leadership is not satisfactorily handling your concerns, you do have the right to go up the CSEA chain of command to seek satisfaction. You have the right to be treated with honesty and respect. These are part of the values that make up our CSEA mission statement, and what we strive for every day. You have the right to inclusiveness. Every group and every idea is welcomed and we strive for full participation from the membership, no matter where you work. You have the right to certain legal representation. If you are being disciplined or interrogated in relation to a disciplinary action, you have the right to have a union representative accompany you into any such hearing or investigation. If your disciplinary case is accepted for Legal Assistance by CSEA’s Legal Department, you have the right to a union attorney to represent you free of charge. You do not have rights to union representation for criminal cases. You have the right to speak out, without fear of retribution. You have legal protections offered by Federal labor law when speaking out about workplace concerns or issues. If you fear retribution, make sure your representatives are aware, so that the appropriate legal protections can be implemented. You have the right to open communications. Our union only works effectively if our leadership communicates with our membership and vice versa. Our leaders have an obligation to make sure you know how we operate and what’s going on, so that you can be informed and participate when necessary. You have the right to accountability and fiscal responsibility. Our union will be accountable for our actions and decisions, and we will conduct our business in a fiscally sound manner.


How does CSEA pick the candidates it backs in national, state and local elections? A CSEA endorsement tells you instantly that a candidate stands on your side on issues that affect your life and your livelihood. CSEA only endorses candidates who clearly will fight for the needs of the CSEA membership and candidates who win CSEA endorsements wear them as a hard-won badge of honor. CSEA's endorsement process is comprehensive, beginning with Political Action Committees (PAC's) comprised of CSEA members appointed by their unit and local presidents with executive board approval. CSEA has PACs at the unit, local, region and statewide levels. In each case, the voting records and public statements of candidates who request the union’s endorsement are reviewed at the appropriate level. Candidates are invited to meet with the PAC to answer questions regarding their position on matters of specific interest to CSEA members. This process involves member input at every level. All candidates for office have the same opportunity to earn a CSEA endorsement regardless of party affiliation. When considering a candidate for endorsement, the PACs examine a wide variety of factors, but the most important factor is the candidate's record or position on issues of importance to CSEA members. The union’s endorsement also means more than financial contributions to the candidates who we support. Our endorsement comes with the expectation that our members will be politically active to support our chosen candidates with activities such as literature drops, phone banking, printing assistance and more. We encourage all our members to get politically active, because we realize that by participating in the elections, we are often helping our members select their new “boss.” The endorsement of the union means that CSEA believes the candidate will best listen to our voice and serve the interests of our members as well as the taxpaying public. Our endorsement is simply a recommendation - we are NOT telling our members how to vote. As New York's most democratic union, we urge you to make your own informed decisions and to get out to vote on Election Day.


Articles about Contract Negotiations and Other Struggles


Our Union Contract Protection... Security... A Voice in our Workplace... These are some of the needs provided by our union contract. At the most basic level, it’s a legal document between management and the union that locks in our benefits, guarantees our wages, and gives us protections that have the force of law behind them. It’s also a living document, being re-negotiated each time a former contract expires, and at times being subject to legal reinterpretations. There is not much that’s more important to our every day working lives than our contract. It sets our terms and conditions of employment, and lets us know what is generally expected of management and workers. It helps define how we can be treated, and instills a general sense of fairness that doesn’t exist in non-union workplaces. Because this is such an important document, it is of the greatest importance that our members: 1) know what the contract says and speak out when their contractual rights are being violated and 2) get as involved as possible in the negotiations process and support our union negotiating team. So how does our contract come about? It’s a collaborative effort between many parties. Our elected CSEA leadership, in cooperation with our professional union staff negotiators and with our members’ input and involvement, negotiate the contract on behalf of all our members. At every point in the negotiating process, we welcome and encourage member involvement/participation. Members are appointed by our Unit President to serve on the Negotiating Team and sit at the table with our chief negotiator and decide what gets negotiated on our side. We also survey our membership to find out your negotiating priorities, and try to keep open good lanes of communication during the process to make sure the needs of our membership are met. When it comes to a contract offer, only our members have the final say, voting to accept or reject any deal reached. Negotiations is a two-way process, however, and we must stick together, and sometimes fight together, especially in difficult economic times, to win the contract we deserve. We work with our Region Staff professionals to develop strategic campaigns, to mobilize, and to build pressure on management to win a fair contract. We also work within our CSEA Region structure to reach out to other Locals and Units for assistance in our fight, so we don’t have to go it alone. The resulting contract is a binding document that offers us protection, security, and a voice in our workplace. Once it is in place, our CSEA Labor Relations Specialist works with our elected leadership, appropriate union staff, and management to enforce the terms of our contract, and make sure that our rights are preserved and protected.


Impasse In Contract Talks: What Does It Mean? Under New York State labor law, when public sector contract negotiations come to a standstill, the union and management have a process they turn to which is designed to bring both sides to an agreement, called the Impasse procedure. This process is often misunderstood, so here’s how it works and what you can expect going through it. First, Impasse can be declared by either party or jointly by both labor and management. It usually doesn’t come as a surprise, because both parties usually have a good sense at the bargaining table when they cannot make further movement on their key proposals or issues, and they believe that outside assistance might be helpful in moving them closer to an agreement. After a declaration of Impasse is filed with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), it sets into motion a three-stage procedure, as follows. In the first step, Mediation, a neutral Mediator is appointed by PERB to meet with both parties to try and bring them to an agreement. It commonly takes about a month to get a Mediator assigned after Impasse is declared. Once appointed, it can take a few weeks for the Mediator to schedule a session with both parties. In Mediation sessions, the Mediator will normally sit down separately with both parties, and then bring them together to discuss options to get them past their stalemate. Most Mediators will allow themselves up to three meetings to try and reach an agreement, but that’s not set in stone, and there are no set timelines. In some instances, a Mediator may issue a non-binding Mediator’s Report or recommendations, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. It’s not unusual to expect Mediation to take 3 to 6 months to complete. In Central New York, the majority of contract impasses are settled at some point in this Mediation stage. In the event that an agreement is not reached in Mediation, the process moves on to the Factfinding stage. In Factfinding, PERB appoints a neutral Factfinder to meet with both parties. It is a somewhat more formal process, where both parties meet with the Factfinder and then submit written briefs (similar to legal briefs) and research documentation supporting their positions and proposals. At the end of this stage, the Factfinder will make a written recommendation that is given to both sides. This report is not binding and can be rejected by either side. The Factfinder’s report is usually released publicly once both parties have had an opportunity to review it. This process can also take several months to complete. If Factfinding fails to produce a tentative agreement between the parties, the process moves on to the third stage of Legislative Imposition, where the governing body for the municipality would impose a one-year contract to cover the first year following the last contact that expired. If it gets to this stage, the Legislature can only impose a wage settlement, which nine times out of ten ends up being zero percent. Everything else remains as it was under our previous contract. We rarely ever get to this stage -- most contracts get settled long before this. By the time a contract stalemate gets to this point, we’re usually more than a year working under an expired contract, which means we’re right back at the negotiating table starting from scratch for subsequent contract years. It’s important to note several key points about the Impasse process. First, at any stage during the process we can still meet with management and even negotiate if there’s progress to be made. If, at any point, our Negotiating Team feels they have a legitimate offer to present, they’ll bring it back for your vote. The important thing to remember is that as a dues-paying CSEA member, YOU have the final say on whether your contract is approved or not. Also, CSEA does not have the option of going to “binding arbitration” to have a third-party impose a settlement upon management. In public sector negotiations, this option is only available to law enforcement personnel.


Another key point is that during this process, we do not expect our members to sit idly by waiting for information or something to happen. Our goals are to keep you involved in your contract negotiations process, and quickly informed of what’s going on. To that end, CSEA has developed a proven mobilization process that includes increasing communications and putting together a strategy for member involvement that helps build visibility, public awareness and political pressure to reach our negotiating goals. As your chief negotiator, your CSEA Labor Relations Specialist (LRS) can work with your local union leadership and other union staff professionals to put our strategic mobilization plan into effect. Also, you should know that once Impasse is declared, any ground rules previously agreed to with management about going to the press or publicizing what’s going on in negotiations are immediately invalid. We will utilize the media to get our message out, and there are no news “blackouts.” We strive to keep our members fully informed. Finally, you need to know that the declaration of Impasse and the process that follows should have NO impact upon your current terms and conditions of employment, until a new contract is agreed upon and ratified by both parties. Under the Triborough Amendment of the Taylor Law, all the provisions of your previous contract, with the exception of salary increases and any language tied to a “sunset” date, will continue unchanged. You are still protected and have binding legal rights under your expired contract, and you should make sure you let your union officers know if anyone tries to change working conditions because the contract has expired or Impasse has been declared. This article just covers the basics of the Impasse process. Questions about your particular negotiations should be directed to your union officers or your CSEA LRS.


Mobilizing to Fight Our Battles As a member-run union, CSEA is only as strong as the number of workers we can gather to fight around an issue that concerns us. We call the process of gathering those workers mobilization. Effective mobilization has its basis in grass-roots activism, and works best when members are excited, impassioned, scared or otherwise impacted in some way by the issue that’s at hand. When it comes to the issues we most frequently battle over -- contracts, layoffs, budgets and privatization -- we tend to gain involvement from members who are concerned that they might not be able to maintain their wages or benefits, or that they might lose their livelihoods. That fear can be a powerful motivator. Of course, it’s not the only one. As public servants, our members are very mindful of just how valuable their services are to the community and their recipients, and what impact cuts, layoffs or privatization could have on those who depend on their services. No matter what the motivator, our success in mobilizing depends on being able to harness the collective energy of our members, and get them involved, active, and organized in a strategic manner to successfully fight our battles. Whatever the issue or fight, our ultimate goal is always the same: to effect change by putting pressure upon those who have the decision-making power on the issue (usually our elected officials). To accomplish this, we depend on direct and indirect political action. Direct political action means our members contacting politicians themselves to get our point of view across. Indirect political action means trying to gain the support of the public and other stakeholders, who can then bring their own pressure to bear on our elected leaders. It is always better to go into battle with outside (public) support, because no matter what we say, the politicians will largely take us for granted because they believe us to be self-interested as union members and workers. On the flip side, we cannot afford to relax our direct efforts, because if we did, those same politicians would then assume we don’t care. To successfully mobilize and build political support, we have several goals: Ÿ Organize our workers around the issue – To get members organized, we must first educate them about how the issue impacts them, and how they can get involved to make a difference. If people are motivated and feel they can effect change, they will take the time to get involved, especially if we can make it easy for them to do so. We then strategically plan actions over an anticipated timeline to involve members, building gradually from smaller to larger-scale events, to try and keep the members active in their own fight. Ÿ Increase member communication/visibility – It helps to build solidarity and unity by keeping up regular communication with members about the issue we’re fighting. It also helps them understand where we are at any given time in the process. It’s also important to publicly show our union solidarity by wearing items like stickers, buttons or tee-shirts to give our members a sense of unity and not fighting alone. These types of things can also boost member morale when fights get long and drawn out (as they sometimes do). Ÿ Increase external communication/visibility – To gain their support, we must first educate the public about the issue. Before we do so, it is crucial to try and measure existing public sentiment on the issue by looking at what’s been reported in the media, and perhaps doing surveys of our own. By looking at the issue from the public’s point of view, we can often craft an educational message that our services matter to them and that the fight we’re fighting is also their fight. We should reach out to service recipients for their support. We then use various communications methods, including but not limited to car signs, posters, brochures, advertising, demonstrations, news releases, and so on to bring the matter to greater public awareness and hopefully gain support. -more24

Ÿ Take Political Action – There are many ways to reach out to politicians. Often we try and hold small group meetings with key activists and key politicians, but it is the direct contact from members and the general public that will really make the difference. That’s usually done through letter writing, phone calls, e-mails and postcards, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and setup events like public forums where politicians are invited to hear from members of the community who agree with our position on our fight. Of course, it almost goes without saying that we reach out with special attention to those politicians who’ve earned our political support and endorsement in the past, which usually guarantees us that they’ll be receptive to listening to our point of view. To reach those goals, we utilize a time-tested process of strategic mobilization, putting all these parts together and gradually building involvement, strength, power and unity over time. If we can accomplish that, we have successfully mobilized the membership, and we’re well on the way to waging (and winning) our battles!


Articles about CSEA Staff Services


Know Your CSEA LRS What is a “LRS” and what do they do for me? In CSEA, the acronym “LRS” is how our leaders commonly refer to our staff Labor Relations Specialists. Within our union, the LRS is the key staff person who assists our leaders and members on a one-on-one and daily basis to mentor, provide guidance and assistance in accessing a variety of benefits, other union staff and services the union has to offer. The LRS does not work for management, he or she is a member of CSEA’s paid professional staff and works for you and reports to our Region Director. His or her main areas of responsibility are as follows: Ÿ Contract Negotiations: At negotiations time, your LRS serves as the union’s chief negotiator. As such, he or she: advises and educates unit leadership and members about the negotiating process; arranges for any needed trainings; helps develop and implement a negotiating strategy and a strategic campaign to support negotiating goals, including the creation of a “Contract Action Team” to provide and promote membership awareness and involvement; speaks on behalf of the negotiating team at the bargaining table; is the staff person authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the union; and oversees the contract ratification process. Ÿ Enforcement of Contractual/Legal Rights: Once negotiated, makes sure that the contract is followed by assisting with the filing of grievances. Assists leadership with filing other legal processes, such as notices of claim, improper practice charges and lawsuits to make sure that members’ legal rights are protected. Often assists with disciplinary matters, filing requests on behalf of members to CSEA’s Legal Department to request legal assistance. Ÿ Labor-Management Relations: Your LRS can help serve as a liaison between workers and management, and can facilitate better, more frequent communications through a labor-management dialog, either formal or informal. Ÿ Leadership Support and Encouragement: When your leaders have questions about the law, contract interpretation, legal filings, CSEA policy, or where CSEA stands on an issue, they can get their questions promptly answered by calling your LRS. Ÿ Access to Union Services: Functions as your leaderships’ primary liaison to obtain other specialized union staff services and support such as political action, communications, occupational safety and health, research, legal, member benefits, education and training, insurance, health benefits, field mobilization and organizing, to name a few. Ÿ Union-building: Assists and advises leaders in developing internal organizing strategies to build our union and increase member involvement/awareness. Your CSEA LRS generally works out of the union’s Region Office in East Syracuse, or one of our satellite offices in Binghamton or Canton. While they spend much of their time on the road meeting with members and leaders, they all have voicemail at their offices, and remain ready and available to work with your unit or local leadership as the need arises.


Meet our Union’s Staff Professionals CSEA has a number of highly-specialized, trained and professional paid staff who work for the union, both in our Albany Headquarters and our Region and Satellite Offices, whose jobs are to support our members and leaders in the daily business of running our union. In this article, we’ll spotlight a few key staff professionals, based out of our Region Offices. Our Labor Relations Specialist (LRS) is the chief point of contact for our union officers and activists to access all the rest of CSEA’s available benefits and services. He/she works one-on-one with our officers on a regular basis to help mentor, guide and assist them in all their labor relations needs. He/she serves as our chief negotiator when it’s contract negotiations time, and is responsible for enforcing the terms and conditions of our existing contract, helping fight unfair disciplinary actions, unilateral changes in working conditions, or violations of our contract rights. He/she is also available to act as a resource for Labor-Management relations, helping represent us in meetings with management, and keeping our leaders advised of changes to labor laws that impact us. Our Communications Specialist, Mark Kotzin, is our union’s spokesperson across Central New York. He works with staff, officers, activists and members to help get our messages heard by the media, the public, our elected officials, and even our own members. He is responsible for helping obtain positive media coverage of union issues/events, and coordinating media interviews of union officials. He’s also responsible for all internal and external communications, whether it’s putting together Letters to the Editor, flyers, informational pickets, brochures, Info Days, newsletters, contract campaigns, press releases, updates for our Region web site or articles for The Work Force, Mark can help with all our union communications needs. Our Political Action Coordinator, Rick Noreault, helps us strengthen our voice at work. By participating in the political process at every level, from statewide to locally, we help shape the policies and laws that govern our workplaces, and ultimately help elect our own bosses. That's why CSEA has a Political Action Department. In our Region, all political activities are conducted with the assistance of our Political Action Coordinator. He can help CSEA leaders and activists get involved in the political process in several ways, whether it’s endorsing politicians who will listen to our issues, running voter registration drives, or getting political support to support our issues and fight our battles. Our Occupational Safety & Health Specialist, Lynnet Witherell is the person to turn to regarding all matters of workplace safety or health. She works with our leaders to identify and address safety hazards, from minor problems to life-threatening dangers. She can conduct work site walk-throughs to assess existing or potential hazards. She can also help decipher safety laws and regulations designed to protect you, assist Safety & Health Committees and Local/Unit officers and activists in making sure work areas are safe, and can assist in filing safety complaints or conducting training for workers on safety issues. In the event of any serious injury or workplace fatality, she should be among the first people notified to coordinate the union’s quick and thorough response. Our Region Director, Joe Maratea, heads our Region Office operations, and supervises our entire staff of Regional Labor Relations Specialists. He works closely with our Region leadership, as well as our entire Region staff, to coordinate Regional strategy and resources on all our daily local operations. He also serves in an advisory capacity to our Region leadership team to help set our Region agenda and priorities. On the statewide level, he interacts with the directors of CSEA’s other five Regions and our Director of Labor Relations to coordinate our responses and resources on statewide initiatives.


Our Region Office support staff is headed up by Office Manager Roslie Tallman, who supervises two clerical workers and a receptionist at the Region Office in East Syracuse and two clerical workers at our Satellite Offices in Binghamton and Canton. Aside from maintaining our physical office spaces, the office support staff provides clerical support for all our staff and they handle hundreds of phone calls, faxes, and pieces of mail on any given day. With the exception of our Political Action Coordinator, our Region Director and our Office Manager, who are all designated management-confidential, the rest of our staff are members of our two staff unions. Our regular office hours for the Region Office are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. All staff have access to a voicemail system, to ensure prompt delivery of messages and a timely response. They can be reached at the Region Office by calling (315) 433-0050, or by fax at (315) 433-0915.


Why don’t I see more of CSEA in my workplace? Rank and file union members often ask this question, mistakenly thinking that because they rarely see a CSEA professional staff representative in their workplace, they are not properly represented by the union. It’s time to correct that misconception. Look around at your co-workers. Look for your nearest union steward or elected union officer. Then look in the mirror. The faces you see? THEY are all CSEA. YOU are all the union. Sometimes our members who are not actively involved in the union are unaware that CSEA is a member-run union, and that our power to effect change in the workplace comes from our ability to organize our members around an issue, so we become a more powerful force. Yes, our union’s professional staff plays a vital role in the process, but under our union’s structure, they are not the front-line people who handle most of your daily issues and workplace concerns. That’s what your network of elected union officers, trained stewards and grievance representatives are there for. They are your co-workers, volunteering to help run our union, and backing you up. Our professional union staff, many located out of our Region Office or our two Satellite Offices, work closely with your workplace representatives, providing advice, mentoring and access to the many other staff professionals and services available through your membership in New York’s leading union. So the next time you hear a co-worker ask “why don’t we ever see anyone from CSEA around here?” please ask them to look in the mirror, and remind them that they just did.


Articles Focusing on Specific Times of the Year


Reflecting on Dr. King As we celebrate African American History month, it would do us well as union members to reflect on the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to our society, and the important ties he had to organized labor. While many know that Dr. King was a crusader and activist for civil rights, many people are unaware that Dr. King was also a premier activist for workers rights, and a supporter of the labor movement. While many remember his assassination, how many remember that he was killed while in Memphis to support the cause of striking AFSCME sanitation workers? Consider these statements King delivered to the AFL-CIO Convention in December, 1961: “History is a great teacher. Now, every one knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them. “…Our needs are identical with labor's needs — decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor's demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.” We must remember that Dr. King’s dreams for equality, civil and workers rights, and social and economic justice are still very much issues that the Labor Movement is taking on. We should remember Dr. King’s words and deeds, and use his example to continue the work that needs to be done on behalf of workers of every race, creed, color or nationality. We should continue to fight strong on behalf of workers, and remember the legacy of those who have come before us who sacrificed much for the gains we now enjoy, especially those like Dr. King, who paid with the ultimate price. We must honor his struggle and his dream, and keep striving to overcome.


Honoring The Fallen On April 28th of every year, our union brothers and sisters across the nation observe Workers’ Memorial Day, our annual remembrance of those workers who gave their lives on the job. This is a day we cannot, and must not forget. Maybe it doesn’t seem relevant to you at your workplace, but think of how the co-workers of those we lost this year must feel. For them, their families and loved ones, the pain is still fresh, the grief is still there, and Workers’ Memorial Day has a very strong and meaningful place in their lives. There, but for the grace of God, and maybe our union’s continued attention to workplace safety issues, go you and your co-workers. It’s scary and sobering to acknowledge it, but, many times, it could have just as easily been you or the person working next to you. Unfortunately, we did lose (fill in info about on the job fatalities in the past year). We mourn his/her/their loss along with all those others we’ve lost across the nation. How can we observe this occasion? Several ways. It can be as simple as an announced official moment of silence, or a more involved memorial ceremony at your workplace where names of those we lost are read aloud. Finally, as we approach this Workers’ Memorial Day, we must not only remember those we’ve lost, but do all we can to stop any more workers from being injured or killed. Everyone can take part by identifying and being aware of existing or potential safety hazards at their workplace, and reporting them to your union Safety and Health Committee representative. Don’t have a committee? Volunteer to start one – your Local or Unit Officers would welcome your interest. As always, if you have a situation that poses an immediate threat to you or your co-workers, please call our Region Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Lynnet Witherell at the CSEA Central Region Office at 800559-7975. Let’s all be careful out there.


Celebrating American Labor As we approach the end of summer, we’re constantly reminded in the newspapers that Labor Day is coming. Unfortunately, it’s not because there are a lot of articles highlighting the accomplishments of American workers, and their contributions to our society -- it’s from the many ads promoting the big sales retailers have linked to our holiday. Let’s take back Labor Day from the retailers and celebrate it as a holiday for workers, to recognize their hard work and dedication, and to remind them that their work matters. We cannot really lessen the commercialism that has taken some of the meaning away from our holiday or stop the big sales and other promotions from occurring. What we can do is use that very commercialism to further recognize the value of American labor. How? Simple -- by buying American and Union made. This will help us keep businesses in our country and help keep jobs here too. This Labor Day let us all recommit to help turn the American economy around. We must remember that our purchases – each and every one of them – do matter, and we must make a commitment to buy goods and services that are made or provided in the USA. Yes, we will probably have to pay a bit more, but the high quality products and services we get in return, along with the knowledge that we’re helping to save American workers’ jobs, should more than make up for any price differentials. On behalf of the American Labor Movement, that, contrary to some reports, is still alive and strong, CSEA wishes every American worker a happy Labor Day – especially those who belong to unions. Enjoy your day – you deserve it.


Your Vote Counts!!! As we approach the General Elections in November, it is timely to discuss the importance of the ‘union vote.’ We should point out that there really is no one “union vote.” CSEA is not in the business of telling people how to vote. We do not demand that our members vote for any individual along any party affiliation. Instead, we make carefully thought out recommendations on the candidates who a large group of members feel will best represent the working people who belong to this union. We give those candidates our endorsement and our support, which are often the key to getting them elected. We ask our members to carefully consider our endorsement, and make their own choices when they get to the voting booth. The ‘union vote,’ quite simply, results from the block of workers who educate themselves on the issues, consider the union’s recommendations, and take the time to vote. We don’t think of ourselves as a ‘special interest’ – we think of ourselves as workers banding together to improve our lives and livelihoods. We’ve heard that our members don’t pay any attention to our endorsements, because they feel we only endorse along party lines, and don’t give attention to candidates who are not liberal democrats. That is simply not true. This union, and especially our Region, has gone to great lengths to make sure we give a fair chance at earning our endorsement to all candidates who request it. Those who have earned our endorsement cross all party lines and affiliations. So we urge every member who reads this to take the time to familiarize yourself with the union’s endorsements, and make an educated choice on election day. For a listing of all the union’s endorsed candidates for elected office in each region, please consult the November edition of the CSEA Work Force or check our website at For information on the union’s endorsement process, you can also call Political Action Coordinator Rick Noreault at 800-559-7975. We can’t stress enough how important it is for you to vote. We exist in a participatory democracy that only works if we, the people, exercise our right, privilege and duty to take part by voting. Also, as a union of mainly public employees whose ultimate bosses are elected officials, there is a direct impact between whom we elect to office and our working conditions. We cannot afford to neglect or ignore this important opportunity to give ourselves a stronger voice in our own working conditions. And at times where many races come down to a few votes difference, every vote does count – especially yours.


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Your Union Needs YOU!



Published May 2009

Educational Article Collection  

Generic articles on union topics that can be used for union newsletters.

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