September 2016 Issue - Labor Issues
September 29, 2016

Future leaders: Don't go it alone

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
leadership institute
Caption: Participants in this year's NYSUT Leadership Institute write their thoughts about effective leadership. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

From team-building games to labor history lessons to an eye-opening personality profile, participants in NYSUT's 15th Leadership Institute learned a lot about what it takes to become effective leaders.

A key takeaway? If you're doing it by yourself, you're doing it all wrong.

"I also learned how much we have in common. Whether you're from a big local or a small local, we're all brothers and sisters in the labor movement," said Viri Pettersen of the Rockville Centre Teachers Association.

Leadership Institute participants shared a wide range of examples where their locals had successfully brought about positive change.

Chittenango TA's Dave Chizzonite told how members met one Friday night at a regional office to talk about how to deal with a bullying principal. Their local president, NYSUT Board member Andrew Voigt, knew the members were fearful, but told them, "If everybody sticks their neck out, nobody's sticking their neck out (alone)." In the end, Chizzonite said, 56 out of 58 members signed a letter of condemnation and "the problem ended right there. It was a very powerful moment for us."

Tri-Valley TA's Matt Haynes told how his small Sullivan County local grew tired of his local's name literally being cut out of positive articles posted on the district's "Wall of Fame." That spurred the local to start a Facebook page, which has grown very popular and improved the union's morale and standing in the community.

In another good experience with social media, Waverly TA's Tammy Romania said the union used a Facebook page to take on the district's unilateral decision to suddenly remove all appliances, including classroom fans, for "health and safety" reasons.

The Facebook posting, which received thousands of shares, urged parents to dress their kids appropriately for 90–100 degree temperatures.

"The community rallied behind us and we got our fans back," Romania said. "It was a quick solution."

NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner, a Leadership Institute graduate, urged participants to feed off each other's ideas and take full advantage of the networking opportunities.

More than 700 members have graduated from the NYSUT Leadership Institute over the last 15 years, with many moving on to become local presidents, political activists and NYSUT officers and Board members.

For more on this story, visit www.nysut.org.