With January deadlines approaching, NYSUT's smallest locals still have time to officially join forces and give themselves a unified voice at the union's Representative Assembly May 1-2 in Buffalo.
Locals with no more than 100 members in the same NYSUT Election District are entitled to form a Council of Locals to elect and send common delegates to the RA, the union's annual policymaking convention. Councils can total up to 300 members in all.
However, very few of the more than 600 eligible NYSUT locals actually take advantage of this opportunity to band together, save some money and potentially increase the number of delegates representing them and their concerns at the RA.
"This is something that can be very beneficial to everyone involved," said Frank Emmett, a member of the Shelter Island Faculty Association who chairs NYSUT's Small and Rural Locals Advisory Council.
Making leaders of small locals more aware of the program and its benefits will be an ongoing focus of the advisory council and NYSUT, Emmett said, beginning with the upcoming RA.
While all NYSUT members are welcome to attend the RA, only properly elected and reported delegates can debate and vote on proposed resolutions and proposed amendments to the union's constitution and bylaws.
Joining forces as a council, small locals can save precious dollars by sharing the cost of sending delegates to represent the interests of all the locals that make up the council, said Duane Willsey of the Madison Central School Teachers Association in central New York. For the past four years, his small local has joined with four other Madison County-area locals to form a council and elect delegates to represent them and their common concerns.
"It's often difficult for a local with 20 or 30 members to assume the cost of sending someone to the RA," said Willsey, who is also a member of the Small and Rural Locals Advisory Council. "But when you can share the cost with a couple of other locals, it's definitely within range."
More than half of all NYSUT locals are small enough to form a council, according to union records. The union has been seeking to raise awareness of the program, promoting it in mailings and other correspondence to leaders of an estimated 667 small locals and in the annual Convention Call that was mailed recently to all local leaders and is available online at www.nysut.org/RA.
Locals interested in forming a council must adopt identical resolutions and nominate delegates and alternates by Jan. 9, 2015, and request recognition in writing from the NYSUT Board of Directors by Jan. 20.
Locals must vote on the full slate by March 3 and certify and report the results to NYSUT headquarters no later than March 17.
"After you've done it once, it's easy," Willsey said.
— John Strachan