July 12, 2016

Messner to LAP locals: 'The stronger you are, the stronger the union is'

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Communications
Local Action Project
Caption: NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner listens to members during a session of the NYSUT Local Action Project 2016. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

The 2016 Local Action Project (LAP) Conference is underway in Saratoga Springs. In this rotating three-year program, teams of volunteers from NYSUT local unions learn best practices for increasing member involvement and visibility in their communities.

In his opening remarks to participants this morning, NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner urged participants from second- and third-year locals to introduce themselves to those from first-year locals and to share best practices. “Any wisdom or knowledge you can impart will be invaluable. Learn from each other,” said Messner. “That’s what this program is all about.”

Nancy O’Brien, a member of second-year Cleveland Hill Education Association, led by Serena Kotch, said she would advise first-year locals to “be prepared for your head to spin at first.” It takes some time to process the valuable information. She also advised: “Encourage your members to join you at LAP. You don’t have to be an officer. Being at LAP is a wonderful time to step back and look at your local.”

Messner welcomed six new locals joining the program: Copenhagen Teachers Association, Guilderland Teachers Association; Newburgh Teachers Association; Poughkeepsie Public School Teachers Association; Spencerport Teachers Association, and Watkins Glen Faculty Association.

John Cain, president of the 47-member Copenhagen TA said his team wants to engage all of their members and to build their presence in the community. Cain is also a NYSUT communications ambassador. “We feel there is a lot we can do within our community to help our students.”

Another first-year participant, Gretchen Breon, said, “We’ve done some exciting things in our district already, but we are looking forward to learning how to get more members involved.” Breon is a member of Spencerport TA, led by John J. Kozlowski, in Monroe County.

Stacy Moran, president of the more than 1,350-member Newburgh TA, said she heard about LAP when she was in the NYSUT Leadership Institute. “I heard amazing things about this program.” Moran said she and her local officers are relatively new to their leadership positions and wanted to step up their commitment to engagement.”

The importance of community involvement was at the heart of remarks by NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, whose office oversees social justice issues for the union. He discussed the external issues “that are constantly pulling at us.”

“I know that you are all able to deal with things like APPR, on a day in and day out basis,” he said, “but issues like institutional racism, or good quality health care, or whatever it may be … matter critically to each and every one of us.”  He said we can’t change these things without being involved.

Messner also spoke of the critical importance this year’s presidential election will have, including an opportunity to have a more progressive Supreme Court. “We encourage you to get involved, get engaged, participate in this election season,” he said.  

“NYSUT relies on you to be our strength,” said Messner. “The stronger you are, the stronger the union is.”

LAP continues through July 15. NYSUT members will attend workshops and breakout sessions with NYSUT staff, to learn how to leverage member engagement and increase visibility to the stakeholders in their respective communities.

Second year LAP locals are: Clarkstown Teachers Association, Cleveland Hill TA, Fabius-Pompey Education Association; Frewsburg Faculty Association; Mahopac Teachers Association; Salmon River Teachers Association, and Wappingers Congress of Teachers.

Third year LAP locals are: Associated Teachers of Huntington; Chittenango Teachers Association; Hicksville Congress of Teachers; Horseheads Teachers Association; Mexico Academy Central School Faculty Association; Queensbury Faculty Association, and Shenendehowa Teachers Association.

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