March 22, 2015

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New leaders learn to lead

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UUP has taken its battle to defend SUNY to the airwaves and the hallways of the state Capitol, and the union’s effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by legislators.

“Lawmakers are seeing us fighting for SUNY,” UUP President Fred Kowal said. “We need to make sure lawmakers know they are not alone in rejecting the governor’s ill-conceived proposals that undermine public employees. The political winds are changing.”

Kowal’s statements were part of his March 20 opening address at the union’s annual Chapter Presidents and Vice Presidents Retreat and New Union/Labor Activists Workshops, held March 20-22 in Cooperstown. More than 75 new and veteran leaders attended the weekend conference.

The union’s ad campaign—including a television ad featuring SUNY students—has been very effective, Kowal said. The hard-hitting ad—which claims Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Budget is wrong for students, SUNY and New York—aired in March across the state and in New York City.

A companion print ad ran in The Daily News, the Albany Times Union, Newsday and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, as well as weekly papers statewide.

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Kowal and several of the union’s statewide officers and leaders briefed the attendees on UUP’s recent activities and activism at the opening session. That set the tone for the seminar and helped prepare new leaders for their weekend’s worth of work.

New leaders learned the ins and outs of union activism at the conference. They attended workshops that ranged from strategic planning and member mobilization to the Taylor Law and social media. The sessions were conducted by UUP staff and NYSUT labor relations specialists assigned to UUP.

“I have dealt with the issue of civility in the workplace,” said new leader Theresa Dember-Neal of SUNY Farmingdale. “I wanted to see what I could do to improve situations for others where I work.”

“I want to be proactive on my campus, so I came to find out about how things work,” said Chris Sweeney of SUNY Canton.

The workshops focused on problem solving, member mobilization, strategic planning, workplace civility, the Taylor Law, digital photography and social media. An seminar for academics touched on copyright guidelines, leave accrual and tenure; professionals discussed appointment letters, performance programs, evaluations, promotions and permanent appointment at their meeting.

“This union knows the importance of training our members to be future leaders in UUP, and that we must do everything we can to help them help us activate members at the chapters,” Kowal said.

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