May 2016 Issue
May 03, 2016

2016 Constituency Award winners

Source: NYSUT United


elinsRoberta Elins
United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology
'We are the collective voice advocating for the public good'

In her video address to delegates at the NYSUT Representative Assembly, Higher Education Member of the Year Roberta Elins urged continued advocacy. "Unions are under attack across the nation. Remember that our union voices are the only voices advocating not just for our members, but for our students and our patients. We are the collective voice advocating for the public good."

Elins' dedicated leadership has resulted in increased active membership in UCE-FIT over the past five years, notably evidenced by the number of VOTE-COPE awards won by the union. She has maintained a popular weekly online newsletter for the past four years. She also has raised more than $10,000 in each of the past seven years as leader of the UCE-FIT Making Strides efforts.

She chairs NYSUT's Higher Education Policy Council and has been on the AFT Program and Policy Council for the past four years.

Elins is a professor of advertising and marketing communications at FIT and has led college students on the "London Abroad Program."

smithJasmin A. Smith

Professional Staff Congress
(Former member, Union of Clerical and Technical Staff at NYU)
'You should not underestimate the importance of speaking up'

Jasmin Smith became a shop steward early in her career — after her local union, UCATS at NYU, filed a grievance on behalf of Smith and 40 other employees who had taxes incorrectly deducted from their pay. The union won a grievance against the employer's demand for payment of taxes to cover its own error of $60,000. Winning this grievance on behalf of herself and dozens of other UCATS members made Smith realize the power of the collective voice.

About the same time, Smith became the driving force behind member engagement in fighting NYU's ill-conceived job sharing plan.

Smith recently accepted a full-time faculty position at LaGuardia Community College and is now a member of the PSC. In her video address to delegates,


gaglioneVincent T. Gaglione
United Federation of Teachers Retiree Chapter
'Adverse conditions compel us to advocate for justice and decency'

As an inservice member, Vincent Gaglione considered union meetings led by legendary UFT President Al Shanker a treat.

"There was nothing better than hearing him speak," said Gaglione.
Shanker's words spurred him to decades of activism, from chapter leader to Bronx borough representative to the UFT Executive Board and NYSUT Board of Directors, to his role today as treasurer and executive board member for the UFT Retiree Chapter. "I think it's important that what we do as retirees is no different than what we did as active members," he said. "We are there to continue to advocate and support the in-service members, as well as to advocate and support all of our retirees.

"Adverse economic and social conditions compel us to advocate consistently and tirelessly for the spirit of justice and decency to working men and women and for retirees."

kieltyBarbara A. Keilty-Michaleski
Retiree Council 18
'Union activism is in our blood'

As the child of two sweatshop workers, Barbara Keilty-Michaleski came naturally to unionism. "My father would say, 'Unions, remember that,'" said Keilty-Michaleski, who embraced the mantra throughout her teaching career. She became a building rep during her third year as a West Hempstead Education Association member and has stayed active in her union into retirement.

When asked to lead Retiree Council 18, she sought out all the retiree groups in her region and found three no one knew existed. She and her fellow leaders also created a first-ever retiree newspaper, which is distributed to 5,400 retirees. "When I hear people say, 'I'm a retired teacher and I was a member of NYSUT,' I say no, you are a retiree," said Keilty-Michaleski. "But you are still, and will always be, a member of the union.

"Retirees are the daytime army. We have the opportunity to do what we couldn't do when working. Union activism is in our blood.


carner shafranSandra Carner-Shafran
Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association
'It is imperative that we all engage our members to be involved'

Sandie Carner-Shafran is the consummate union member, exemplifying what a union sister or brother is all about. She devotes her time to improving the union, her profession and her school. She is there to assist — from helping a member find his footing, working with a student to improve her self-image, to spreading the word about the needs, benefits and accomplishments of the union.

Carner-Shafran has been a NYSUT RA delegate, a member of the Committee of 100 and the SRP Advisory Board, an ELT instructor and a NYSUT Board at-large director for years. She is on the NYSUT LGBTQ Committee and the Women's Steering Committee. Carner-Shafran says her participation in these committees "inspires me to continue to advocate, educate and organize.

"It is imperative that we all engage our members to be involved. When asked, encouraged and supported, they will become activists. Do that and I promise to lift those activists up on my shoulders to become union leaders."


bornemannMindy Karten Bornemann
United Federation of Teachers
Having a union 'changes the culture and makes people less fearful'

"I love being able to help kids communicate," said Mindy Karten Bornemann, a speech therapist and chapter leader of the UFT's 3,000 speech therapists.

Bornemann's "above-and-beyond" work has involved establishing a community-based speech clinic and beginning a Super Saturday/ Sunday program, which presents guest speakers and allows colleagues to earn Continuing Education Units. She has spearheaded a distance learning program for speech therapists to earn their master's degree; 350 students have now graduated. Bornemann also started a "survival class," teaming new speech therapists with mentors.

Bornemann is a delegate to the UFT Delegate Assembly and to NYSUT's RA and the AFT convention. She also serves on the NYSUT Health Care Professionals Council.

Bornemann said she sees the union as a place that provides opportunity, support, respect, voice and unity. Being in a union has given members courage "to raise a voice where our members were being harmed." Having a union, she said, "Changes the culture. It makes people less fearful."

cavanaghCathleen Cavanagh
Patchogue-Medford Professional Nurses Association
Laughter lifts union work and community outreach

While Cathleen Cavanagh has been honored as a nurse, for her union activism and for volunteer work, it's likely that her sense of humor played a role as well.

At Patchogue-Medford High School, Cavanagh modeled in the senior fashion show wearing a leopard-print "granny" nightgown with Victoria's Secret wings. At the community soup kitchen where she volunteers every Saturday, she dons different hats: a bonnet with feathers for the Kentucky Derby; a turkey hat for Thanksgiving.

Cavanagh has served as president and vice president for her local union and was also on the negotiating team. She's been a nurse at the elementary, middle, and high school levels — following her children's education. Having children the same age as her students helped her identify, she said. "I could relate socially."

Her youngest child, now 30, has special needs. Cavanagh said her situation has helped her reach out to parents of students with special needs. "They know that I know," Cavanagh said.

"Although I'm proud of my work with and for nurses, I'm most pleased with my work with NYSUT and the community outreach."