Legend:First-year members of the Cheektawaga-Sloan Teachers’ Association near Buffalo signed up for NYSUT’s Local Action Project following a leadership change. “The last few years have been pretty damn tough and we’re trying to unify our membership,” said TACS secretary Tim Murray, an elementary music instructor. “We have some great new ideas on how to become a stronger local. Photo by El-Wise Hazelnut.
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, NYSUT held its first in-person Local Action Project conference in mid-July. Participating LAP locals commit for three years to learn proven strategies to boost member engagement, build community support, and achieve better results on local issues such as contracts and budget votes schools.
This summer, 15 first-, second-, and third-year locals traveled from cities and towns across the state to attend workshops on topics ranging from member recruitment and retention to team building, strategic planning, communication and political action.
“It’s great to meet these dedicated locals in person again,” said Ron Gross, NYSUT Second Vice President, whose office coordinates the program. “It’s a testament to the strength of this program that they were able to continue their LAP work during a two-year hiatus.”
The Tri-Valley Teachers Association, one of two third-grade locals in attendance, responded to the demands of COVID-19 by tweaking its existing LAP initiatives, including moving a first in-person book to a drive-in event, starting a meet and greet Candidates dinner for local members after meeting with the community, Candidates night fell by the wayside and organizing a caravan of educators to welcome students during the closure. “We decorated our cars, had banners and drove past student houses. Families and students really enjoyed it,” said TVTA President Matt Haynes.
The Saratoga Adirondack Association of Educators BOCES also continued its advocacy, shifting the LAP’s focus from the health union to addressing community food insecurity during the shutdown. “We had a food drive and our BOCES students from the safety program helped out,” said NYSUT board member, SABEA retiree and LAP team member Sandie Carner-Shafran, noting that the students selflessly moved boxes, directed traffic and helped out. .
Other SABEA initiatives include a Christmas Eve morning march to honor service members who were unable to return home for the holidays, and a wreath laying event to commemorate fallen veterans.
Two other third-year locals — Middle Country Teachers Association and Erie 1 Professional Education Association — worked independently with their labor relations specialists to complete the final year of their LAP engagement, Gross explained.
chart a new course
First-year members of the Cheektawaga-Sloan Teachers’ Association near Buffalo joined the LAP following a leadership change. “The last few years have been pretty damn tough and we’re trying to unify our membership,” said TACS secretary Tim Murray, an elementary music instructor. “We have some great new ideas on how to become a stronger local.
Beyond transactional relationships with members, it is important to have transformational relationships, explained TACS member Sarah Boroweic. “We want members to feel connected to the union and not just think of it as the person they turn to when they have a problem.
Once the pandemic hit, the Ardsley Congress of Teachers, a sophomore local, put the communication skills learned at LAP to good use. “We all had new directors that year, so they didn’t really know the staff yet,” said Alyson Tina, president of ACT, explaining that the local tapped into its newly created communications network to hold meetings. informed members. “Our emails had a 90% open rate – we were isolated and this communication really strengthened our union.”
Local second-year attendee Alison Rhoades enjoys the “energy and focus boost” she and other Croton TA members receive after attending the LAP. She advises new LAP locals to find achievable goals and work toward them gradually.
“Don’t try to do everything at once,” she says. “That’s the beauty of the LAP planning process, it teaches you to set goals and work through them.”
NYSUT’s LAP program is held annually in mid-July.