In his travels around the state, NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale could easily have fashioned a primer on turning members into activists.
In the North Country, he met with small and rural locals that face ongoing reductions in programs and services.
"They are finding students are not able to be competitive because they don't have the proper resources for higher-level course offerings," he said. Those members became activists.
In Cooperstown and Voorheesville, he met with School- Related Professionals who spoke up at the Capitol about the importance of the fight for $15 and "told their stories about the need for better wages and their health and safety needs on the job," Pecorale said.
"They found their voice through the union and now they are using those voices to carry their message," he said. "I witnessed members becoming activists."
Activism at the bargaining table was evidenced when 2,000 community nurses represented by the UFT/ Federation of Nurses, working for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York were able to secure their pension, negotiate a wage increase and maintain their health insurance.
Members of the UFT/FN at NYU Lutheran Hospital gained salary increases and improved the nurse/ patient ratio in certain units. "And in that fight and settlement, members became union activists," he said.
"We all need to become activists, to speak out at the grocery store or a neighbor's barbeque about why tenure matters, why better wages matter, why standing up for students and patients everyday matters, and why unions matter," Pecorale said.
An opportunity for activism will be available for many on May 4 with school walk-ins held as part of the national Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools movement.
Another opportunity for activism takes place on May 17, when the NYSUT LGBTQ Committee has scheduled a day of advocacy.
In his work as vice president, Pecorale also oversees social justice initiatives and is helping move forward the AFT's work on Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity. The NYSUT Civil and Human Rights Committee is asking members to join the "Start the Conversation" campaign about racial justice.
NYSUT has posters, postcards and "Why in Five" cards available to get members talking about a host of topics, including race, diversity and women's rights. More ideas and resources are available on the NYSUT website at www.nysut.org/socialjustice.
Pecorale also announced the creation of the Ken Kurzweil Social Justice Recognition Award and an initiative via the union's Retiree Services called Bridging the Gap from In-service to Retirement.