March-April 2018 Issue
March 01, 2018

Members across the state say 'I'm sticking with our union'

Author: By Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
Proving that “1-2-1” conversations really work, every member of the Newfane Teachers Association in Western New York recommitted to their union. Photo by Dennis Stierer.
Caption: Proving that “1-2-1” conversations really work, every member of the Newfane Teachers Association in Western New York recommitted to their union. Photo by Dennis Stierer.

With Janus v. AFSCME — the largest threat to working people — now in the hands of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, the growing voice of union members is undeniable — no matter the legal outcome, they're sticking with our union.

The commitment to defy the relentless assault by anti-union agendas is evident in every corner of the state — from the thousands of union members who rallied in New York City and Buffalo for a Day of Action in late February to the union "ambassadors" who continue to engage their colleagues in meaningful conversations about union solidarity.

"Brothers and sisters we are at a crossroads where the billionaires are trying to tell us what to think and what to do," NYSUT President Andy Pallotta told the crowd at the Day of Action in Mahattan's Foley Square. "They think they are going to silence us. They are so wrong!"

The ambassadors' "1-2-1" — one-to-one — conversations with members to build engagement are certainly proof.


  • FOR NYSUT MEMBERS: Janus Action Center.
    Creative ways to help you spread the word about the importance of our voice, our values and our union. Tell everyone: "I'm sticking with our union!"
  • FOR NYSUT LEADERS: Union Value Toolkit (login required).
    A growing collection of resources to support local union leaders in building community and strengthening the local union with member engagement and one-to-one conversations.

'100 percent all in'

In Western New York, all 134 members of the Newfane Teachers Association signed a new union membership card, renewing their commitment to their local, to NYSUT and to the labor movement.

"Here in Newfane, we have a strong union history, and our members know and value what the union does for them," said Newfane TA President Henri Kursten.

The ambassadors quickly learned that "when you speak with members one-to-one, they want to take the time and they appreciate the chance to share their views," he said.

Newfane's neighbors and crosstown sports rivals in Wilson have done it, too. The 116-member Wilson TA, (pictured below) led by President Meg Thompson, is 100 percent all in.

wilson ta

"The Western New York region has met the task of re-carding our membership with a swift and serious effort," said Joe Najuch of Newfane, a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors. "There is no doubt that the training and workshops offered by the regional office, promoting the one-to-one conversations, have helped the Newfane and Wilson TAs achieve and preserve 100 percent membership."

Their success is being repeated in every corner of the state. The Laurens TA and the South Kortright SRP unit in the Southern Tier recently reached 100 percent, as did the Little Flower TA in Suffolk County on Long Island.

Is your local at 100 percent?

Are you sticking with our union?

Member Organizing Institute

union value

In addition to the efforts of the ambassadors, hundreds of union members stepped up last summer, in the fall, and this winter to join NYSUT's Member Organizing Institute (MOI), a massive door-to-door, union-building activity that reaches members at home. Regional MOI trainings have drawn overflow crowds in Central New York, the North Country, the Hudson Valley and every borough of New York City.

"This is crucial work that connects members with the union in a very personal way," said NYSUT Second Vice President Paul Pecorale.

Janus v. AFSCME "is the latest in a series of attacks on our voice, our values and our union," he said.

Essentially, the Janus case argues that people who personally benefit from union representation should not have to pay for it. As the transcripts of oral arguments confirm, the billionaires and corporate interests that are bankrolling the case are plotting to erode good wages, health benefits, employment and retirement security.

"What they are not counting on, however, is the strength of NYSUT members and union members everywhere," Pecorale said. "We have the will and the power to defend and protect what's ours."

Busloads of unionists from the United University Professions and Professional Staff Congress, NYSUT's higher ed affiliates, traveled through the night to demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26 when oral arguments in Janus were heard.

And a "thunderclap" of epic proportions reverberated throughout cyberspace at noon. The social media blitz generated thousands of tweets and messages simultaneously to millions of social media users. NYSUT connections alone reached more than one million friends and followers — an amazing demonstration of the power of our collective voice.

"This is the new reality for our movement, and it must continue," Pallotta said. "We're mobilizing to defend our rights. Unions are like a family and we stick together! … Together, we have the power!"

Spread the Word!

sticking with our union

NYSUT's Janus Action Page has many tools to help you spread the word. Visit and share on social media with the hashtag #ImStickingWithOurUnion.