For two decades, local unions participating in NYSUT's Local Action Project have learned and shared tools for strengthening their locals and their communities. Members of the 2017 graduating class offer these tips:
1. We're all the union. The LAP process encouraged members of the Clarkstown Teachers Association to focus more on newer members and to make sure all of the local's 1,000 teacher and SRP members understand they are part of the same union. The union was also a visible supporter of other unions in the community. That solidarity proved crucial through three rounds of difficult bargaining. The CTA is led by Jonathan Wedvik.
2. Know your audience. Proving there is a lesson in everything — including failure — the Salmon River TA, led by co-presidents Ronald Jeror and Adam Schrader, found success when members increased communication with their community, which increased foot traffic to events, which improved member engagement.
3. Engage your membership. Led by President Pasquale Delli Carpini, the Wappingers Congress of Teachers regularly sponsors community events and has respectable member participation. A member poll revealed how to involve more educators. "You have to really know your membership and develop activities that meet their needs," Delli Carpini said.
Young teachers with families said they need family friendly activities — food drives, coat collections, etc.
4. Remember your roots. The 104-member Frewsburg Faculty Association, led by Shaun Laska, worked hard to strengthen community ties within its small Southwestern NY district. FFA expanded outreach with a "Shop Local Business" event and an Armed Forces Appreciation night at a varsity football home opener.
5. Personal communication is key. The 88-member Fabius-Pompey Education Association, led by Elizabeth Pierce, sponsored a welcome back picnic for members. Nearly 80 percent of members attended. The local also increased VOTE-COPE participation from zero to 26 members. While 30 additional members gave to NYSUT's political action fund in the second year, attendance at the picnic fell off. The difference? The local reached out in personal calls the first year and only sent text messages the following year.The lesson: Stick with what works.
6. Engage and share. The more than 400 members of the Mahopac TA, led by Thomas McMahon, host events for charity; support fair contracts for other local unions and district employees and more. The local also provides gifts — emblazoned with the MTA logo, of course — to students at certain milestones. One lesson: Take plenty of pictures and video and share with local media. To engage the community and be recognized, people need to know what you are doing.
7. Establish your identity. The Cleveland Hill EA, led by Serena Kotch, needed an identity separate from the district to increase member engagement. The local shared its colors with the district and its logo was the district mascot, making it difficult for members to stand out. The NYSUT Communications Department designed a new, unique logo for the union.
And, using organizational tools and apps, like Sign Up Genius, the local helps members participate in events more easily.
8. NYSUT Second Vice President Paul Pecorale welcomes locals attending the 2017 LAP conference.