November 02, 2016

First-time conference attendees share union moments

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
cepeda and casali
Caption: Ivana Cepeda (left) and Ina Casali. Photos by Marty Kerins, Jr.

The first-timers had a breakfast session where they talked about how they got involved in the union.

Ivana Cepada explained her "union moment" came when she was was a waitress at Yankee stadium. After sweating through the hot summer months wearing the warm year-round uniform, she worked through her union UNITE-HERE Local 100 to demand summer attire. Not only did she help force the Yankees to provide cotton polo shirts, she went on to become a shop steward and a member of the negotiating team. "For me that was the catalyst, I saw what you can do through the union to improve working conditions." Now a media relations assistant at FIT, she immediately stepped up to get involved in her union, FIT-UCE. She said NYSUT's Community College Conference was proving to be very informative and a great place to network with other higher education unionists.

Ina Casali, an adjunct writing professor who has worked at Suffolk Community College more than 25 years, said she recently got involved in her union to advocate for adjunct rights. "There's a lot of misinformation out there. I tell my colleagues never say you're just an adjunct. You have a vote in your union. If you have an issue, say something to your rep." Last spring Ina was elected the faculty associations's executive council adjunct rep. "My mission is to let adjuncts know the union really does care and is doing positive things for you." As an example, she said adjuncts at Suffolk used to have to wait two months to get their first paycheck. "Now thanks to the union, we got our first paycheck in about a month," she said. "Slowly, we're making progress."