Union Victories
December 07, 2023

NYSUT scores organizing wins statewide

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Commack Security Guards
Caption: From left, Commack Security Guards Association leaders include Omar Rosales, building rep; Sue Pelan, secretary; Tom McFadzen, first vice president; Joe Hendrickson, president; Tom Cronin, second vice president; and Anthony Fiore, treasurer.

NYSUT is committed to bringing more workers into the union fold. And thanks to the hard work of its network of union organizers, it’s chalking up big wins across the state.

“Organizing is a simple goal, but a difficult task and it’s one of NYSUT’s primary goals going forward,” said Melinda Person, NYSUT president. According to a 2022 Gallup Poll, 71 percent of Americans approve of unions and 40 percent of them deem unions “extremely important,” the highest level since 1965.

“This is an exciting time for labor, and we believe that all workers need unions — everyone deserves NYSUT support.”

Emma S. Clark United

A group of more than 80 library professionals won voluntary recognition at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in East Setauket in Suffolk County after a whirlwind organizing campaign. In mid-September NYSUT organizers visited the library to gauge staff interest in forming a union. By early November, a super majority of staff had signed union cards and the library’s board of directors voted 7-to-2 to voluntarily recognize the new unit. NYSUT organizers Amy Solar-Greco and Joan Crinnion worked with Colin Kasprowicz, the library’s head of technical services, and a core group of library staff to organize the unit.

Albany Leadership Charter School Union

By a 2-to-1 margin, more than 50 staffers at the Albany Leadership Charter School voted “union yes!” this November, becoming one of NYSUT’s newest locals. Plagued with high staff turnover, and administrative inconsistencies, the drive prevailed despite management initially ignoring their request for recognition. As the Albany Leadership Charter School Union, they now have a voice to negotiate fair wages, affordable health benefits and clear workplace policies. NYSUT organizer Ada Martinez led the drive.

Horseheads Association of Professional Support Staff

NYSUT helped a group of nearly 40 school social workers, social work assistants, occupational therapists and physical therapists in the Horseheads School District organize in August after a nearly year-long struggle. For decades the members were part of the Horseheads Support Staff Association, a catchall group of 10-, 11- and 12-month employees that encompassed 21 different job titles and negotiated contracts but wasn’t a real union. It didn’t hold officer elections or union meetings and the school superintendent appointed its president. After initial resistance, the Horseheads School board voted unanimously in August to recognize the Horseheads Association of Professional Support Staff as its newest bargaining unit. Physical therapist Alisha Tenbus spearheaded the organizing effort with the help of NYSUT Organizer Liz Smith-Rossiter and Southern Tier Regional Staff Director Tim O’Brien.

Commack Security Guards Association

The 65-member Commack Security Guards Association voted to affiliate with NYSUT in early spring. The movement came about after two Commack School District security guards were let go for what colleagues considered a minor mistake after years of unblemished performance. The group got 100 percent compliance for interest forms and union membership forms and the school board accepted the local’s affiliation without challenge. NYSUT organizer Alexandra Castillo-Kesper worked with security guards Joe Hendrickson and Tom McFadzen to organize the local.

City Executive Association

When a 20-member group of Ithaca municipal employees felt they were being outmaneuvered at the bargaining table, they reached out to NYSUT for help voting unanimously in March to affiliate. The City Executive Association hopes to secure wage increases and safeguard existing benefits after years with no raises, and many positions remaining unfilled due to low starting wages. City forester Jeanne Grace and city fleet manager Jeremy Miller worked with NYSUT organizer Liz Smith-Rossiter on the organizing effort.

Robert C. Parker School Professional Association

After initially encountering administrative pushback, the 21-member Robert C. Parker School Professional Association received widespread parental support and, in its first contract, negotiated a 5 percent pay raise and saw student enrollment rise. All that amidst a pandemic that precluded members from being in the same room together. Lead organizer Darcy Demaria thanked organizer Jim MacFawn and RCPSPA Vice President Jennifer Baker for their support during the uncertain days of 2021. The statewide union celebrated the local’s achievement at the 2023 Representative Assembly.

Whether they work for a public or a private entity, when professionals get the respect, support and compensation they deserve in the workplace, it’s a win for everyone because “unionized employees speak with a unified voice to advocate for higher pay, better health and retirement benefits, fairer workplace treatment and increased job security,” said Mike Deely, NYSUT director of membership growth and organizing. “If you know someone who’s interested in forming a union, contact NYSUT Organizing for information.”