When your geographic region stretches over 100 miles, getting members to a meeting can be challenging. Dora Leland, head of the Southern Tier Women’s Committee, knows this firsthand. Elmira, where the group held its inaugural meeting in mid March, encompasses 47 school districts. Vestal has double that amount.
“I had two women who live 50 miles away travel in for the meeting,” said Leland.
Committee goals include improving health care, mentoring younger women and fostering a sense of community by regionally connecting union women. Leland hopes to have a healthy contingent of Southern Tier committee members at the next women’s march in Elmira.
The group is one of 13 new local women’s committees launched statewide over the last few months. Forming local committees is just one charge from the NYSUT Women’s Committee.
“It’s empowering to see so many new committees nurture the next generation of strong female union leaders,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango, who heads the committee.
Albany Public School Teachers Association President Laura Franz was pleasantly surprised by the number of women who attended her local’s interest meeting in early March. “We saw a lot of new faces,” she said. “Many think a women’s issues committee is a good way to get more involved in their union.”
In addition to the next steps identified by the committee, Franz hopes to develop a mentor program to train new female leaders.
Barbara Hafner, president of the West Hempstead Education Association, heads the Long Island Federation of Labor Women’s Committee — composed of women from the organization’s 160-plus member unions. The group registered as a 503(c) nonprofit and held an initial meeting in February where attendees discussed one of the biggest issues facing many women; child care.
“Some women can’t afford to work due to child care costs,” said Hafner, who plans to share information between the federation and the NYSUT Women’s Committee.
Sheila Buck, president of the Rush Henrietta Employees Association Teachers Chapter, plans to help organize a Rochester regional women’s committee as part of the Rochester Women in Leadership Summit in May, organized by Marne Brady, BOCES United Professionals. Summit topics include women’s workplace rights, general leadership skills and women in political leadership.
“I’m glad the NYSUT Women’s Committee tasked us with starting local committees,” said Buck. “As a female-dominated union, it’s appropriate to focus on these issues.”
Other women’s committees and organizers include: Election District 13, Melissa Servant; Great Neck TA, Jennifer Snyder and Maddie Dressner; New Rochelle FUSE, Aisha Cook; Massena Federation of Teachers, Andrea Vierno; Saratoga Adirondack BOCES EA, Sandie Carner-Shafran and Cindy Goodsell; United College Employees-FIT, Roberta Elins and Amy Zaborowski-Smith; Western NY, Cheryl Hughes and Elaine Ablove; and West Seneca, Carla Kruszynski.