September 2010
August 22, 2010

Donahue: Locals find their voice at LAP

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue, whose Program Services department oversees the Local Action Project, listens to Homer TA's Stacy Brown discuss LAP activities. Photo by Andrew Watson.

Q: Leaders from 21 local unions participated this summer in a week of training and planning at the Local Action Project (LAP) conference. What is LAP and why was it developed?

A: LAP participants spend the week working together as a team on a strategic plan for their local. LAP's four key components — strengthening political action, engaging members, improving communications and building community outreach and coalitions — are integrated into a multi-year, multi-level approach meant to build a strong local infrastructure.

As a former local leader I know the joys and challenges we face in our communities. LAP was created in the 1990s in response to a wave of anti-tax, anti-union fervor. We needed to take on these issues directly and train our locals to address them using positive strategies.

Our locals have a track record of success using the LAP principles, from electing school board members, to passing strong budgets, to becoming more active with our allies.

For the first time we had a team this year from every region of the state. Team members come from multiple NYSUT constituencies, including SRPs, health care and higher ed as well as P-12.

Q: What are some of the lessons we've learned from LAP locals through the years?

A: The LAP program provides the tools necessary for a local to build long-lasting community partnerships. Partners can prove to be great allies when there are contract disputes or threats to our members jobs.

We've learned that our local unions can be a strong voice in their communities — not just on education and health¡ issues but in all matters that affect the lives of our members and the institutions where they work.

We have the capacity to influence policy and help elect good people to office. More locals should consider applying to LAP because it can help transform how well they function.

For example, it considerably increases members' involvement in union activities.

Q: We are enduring tough economic times and feeling the sting of anti-union attacks. How does LAP prepare us for these challenges?

A: When we are a strong, visible presence in our communities, it makes it harder for attacks to stick.

When people know who we are and what we do, it makes it more difficult for anti-union pundits to label us negatively. When we are committed to an action program that improves our schools, facilities and communities, we are a force to be reckoned with.

Often the challenges of a tough time can be overcome with a well thought plan such as LAP provides.

Q: How do we reinforce what LAP has accomplished?

A: We will create team connections with the regional offices soon. We have a critical mass of LAP locals in each region so we can use their experience and expertise to assist other locals.