December 2011 Issue
November 23, 2011

Locals in action

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Half Hollow Hills TA members Jeffrey Krautheimer, left, and Scott Bund use the local's Mobile Political Action Station to send faxes urging elected representatives to support job creation. The station is set up in faculty lounges so members can use it during lunchtime and breaks.

Half Hollow Hills TA

Calling your Congressman or sending a fax to your Senator sounds simple enough. I'll do it when I get home from work, you say. But that's before you remember a gazillion errands you have to run, kids to pick up, dinner to make, homework to review, papers to grade and lessons to prepare.

"It was a real challenge to get members to take some political action during their home time," said Richard Haase. So Haase, the new local president of the 1,200-member Half Hollow Hills Teachers Association on Long Island, decided to bring political action to them.

He created the "Mobile Political Action Station" — two laptops, a wireless device, a set of color-coded instructions for members and protocols for building reps. His local already owned the computers; the mobile hot spot, or wireless device, cost about $100.

Haase then purchased an inexpensive pre-paid card to turn the hot spot on for about 30 days. The station can be brought to any faculty lounge in any of the district's 11 buildings. Teachers can use the station on their lunch or break time and, in about 30 seconds, send a fax to their elected representative.

When the U.S. Senate was poised to vote on a bill that would have saved thousands of jobs for teachers and first responders, Haase put his station to the test. He set it up in his own building's faculty lounge. During breaks, his members blasted about 400 faxes through NYSUT's website in less than six hours. Participation was about 90 percent, he said.

"Given the impact of the job situation, I hope people keep coming out — fighting for the teacher next to you who may end up sitting at home," Haase said.

For more information on setting up a similar mobile PAC for your local, contact Haase at 631-499-4240.

Wappingers Congress of Teachers

The Wappingers Congress of Teachers developed a Bullying/Character Education Grant after hearing the news that an 18-year-old Rutgers University student committed suicide after hurtful information about him was posted online. Grants of up to $150 are available for each of the district's 15 schools. Since being established in the 2010-11 school year, the impact of the grants has been felt across the district.

  • At Wappingers Junior High, the WCT grant was used to purchase large posters that depict different types of bullying, display a positive message and serve as a visual reminder about everyone's responsibility in creating a safe school environment.
  • At the high school, educators purchased certificates for students awarded the John Jay Exemplary Character and Citizenship Award. The award recognizes high school students who do the right thing, are responsible and kind to others.
  • Grant money paid for a bully prevention assembly at Evans Elementary.
  • Fishkill Elementary used grant money to purchase fabric markers to decorate white T-shirts — or "Me-shirts" — celebrating each student and staff member.
  • At Oak Grove Elementary school, grant funds were used to purchase paints for a mural representing character education traits the students and staff follow — Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship and Trustworthiness.

Abilities First Employees Association

Abilities First Employees Association (AFEA) generated interest and membership in the union by participating in a vendor day. At the Poughkeepsie (Duchess County) location of programs for disabled children and adults, the union joined a "Perks at Work" day where different vendors came in and gave away goods.

The AFEA sponsored a table and worked to recruit members into the local; only about one-third of the 300 employees belong to the union. In addition to educating colleagues, the local, led by Yvonne Watkins, distributed Fair Trade goodies.

Following this year's movie theme, set by the employer, the local chose Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and had T-shirts made that read "Do the Right Thing — Join the Union!"

The local has also engaged members through community projects in order to reach out to members at their five different work sites. They help restock food pantries in spring and summer; collaborate with a "Thanksgiving in April" program; and find new drop-off locations, increase donations and distribute food to a half-dozen food pantries.

Abilities First offers comprehensive programs and services for people of all ages with a wide range of disabilities. Rehabilitation, education, employment, vocational and residential support and services are provided by professional staff.

Albany County Nursing Home Professional Staff Association

For the past eight years, Albany County Nursing Home has made headlines from ongoing threats to close the facility. The nursing home's Professional Staff Association (PSA) campaigned long and hard to successfully thwart those efforts; now the local union is making headlines — with its own website.

In order to further unite members, and connect with a staff that works shifts around the clock, the 80-member PSA created

The comprehensive site focuses on the union, what members have accomplished and what lies ahead — including the county's recent plans to construct a new, more cost-efficient nursing home.

The site also includes a history of the union, and a pictorial and newspaper recording of the PSA's efforts to keep the nursing home open. Regular feature stories chronicle the talents and contributions of PSA members who care for the elderly residents of the home through nursing, social services, rehabilitation, nutrition and clinics. Web articles also feature union members' volunteer activities.

"It's an employee resource for news and information. It's a great way to get our story out and to get our members connected," said local president Jeff Bradt. "With a 24-hour facility, it's so hard to have everyone together." The site lists contact information and a bio for each union officer as well.

In the past year, the ACNHPSA formed a 35-member retiree chapter, so the site will also help those members stay connected.