At the halfway point of their three-year commitment to the Local Action Project, local unions were looking this week to share what they’ve learned and plan for an even more productive second year in the program.
“We accomplished 90 to 95 percent of what we’d planned to do in our first year,” said John Cain, president of the Copenhagen Teachers Association, a 50-member local in the North Country.
In a community with a one-building school district, and where the school is the center of most civic activities, Copenhagen TA seeks to raise its profile as a separate force for good, not just a part of the school district operation.
The local raised its profile in the community by providing free books for the kids through the NYSUT/AFT First Book program and participating as a group in school nights, holiday events and charitable fundraising.
“We’re showing the people in Copenhagen that the CTA is something that contributes to the community and helps the kids,” Cain said. “We've learned so much in the past year, and we’ve had some great participation.”
That’s a key takeaway for the locals that participate in NYSUT’s LAP program. With training, resources and support from the statewide union, locals make a three-year effort to increase member engagement, improve their standing in the community through charitable action, raise their profile through external communication and increase their political activity.
Stacy Moran, president of the Newburgh TA, said community involvement was “our weak spot,” and that the Hudson Valley local made great strides.
“We stepped out of our comfort zone,” she said, reaching out in the diverse, urban-rural district with book drives for the kids and even a “movie night” in a rented theater for families.
In Spencerport, the TA distributed free books for the kids, did a winter coat and mitten drive, provided support to an ongoing community food drive, raised money for the library, participated in fundraising for a family dealing with childhood cancer and much more.
In this western Monroe County town, the local union is now seen as the “good guys,” said President John Kozlowski, and it helped generate support for the schools at budget time — the budget passed with a record 78 percent rating.
One of their first-year projects included a new union logo that features an image of the town’s signature lift bridge over the Erie Canal. The slogan: Lifting Education in Our Community.
Kozlowski said his union was always community-minded, but LAP helped focus all those activities. “It forced us to sit down as a team and put a structure in place,” he said. “It’s transformed our local.”
Other second-year locals at this year’s summer conference in Saratoga Springs included Guilderland TA, led by Erin McNamara; Poughkeepsie Public Schools TA, led by Stephanie Green, and the Watkins Glen Faculty Association, led by Travis Durfee.
Local presidents who would like to apply for the Local Action Project should talk to their Labor Relations Specialist.