Feb. 2, 2016

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Kowal to delegates: ‘This is our time’

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UUP President Fred Kowal made his point abundantly clear to delegates during the union’s 2016 Winter Delegate Assembly: the time to organize is now.

And every UUP officer, chapter leader and rank-and-file member will be called on to help UUP reach 99 percent membership by June—a goal Kowal outlined three months ago at the 2015 Fall DA in Buffalo.

In his Jan. 31 address, Kowal said the threat of the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case—which would prohibit unions from collecting fees from bargaining unit members who have not signed a union card—has UUP fired up and ready to fight back. In response, the union has begun changing its culture from being membership-oriented to one of organizing, he said.

“This is our time,” Kowal said. “Not even the threat of an ominous Supreme Court decision can diminish the work we do or weaken our collective voice as the most outspoken advocate for SUNY and our students.”

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Kowal challenged delegates, like Albany Chapter President Bret Benjamin, above, to get their colleagues to dedicate themselves to activating the membership and “transforming our union to reflect our shared vision and our shared commitment to our students, our University and our work.”

“The Supreme Court cannot and will not take away our desire and commitment to expanding our union and defeating any and all attempts to deny us and our nation a better future,” he said. “After all, this is our time!”

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Organizing and recruitment

UUP kicked off an ambitious member-recruitment campaign last fall centered on a core group of organizers. Training for those activists began in January with AFT-funded workshops. The activists, above, also attended a membership organizers seminar at the Winter DA. And delegates shared ideas on effective membership recruitment during a Jan. 31 workshop.

In March, four UUP members from each chapter will take part in an intensive four-day Chapter Action Project training program, funded by NYSUT and led by labor relations specialists assigned to UUP. CAP is a three-year program to develop a long-term strategy to build an organizing culture within UUP. Secretary Eileen Landy will oversee the program.

“Growing this army of activists, and doing the work of organizing and activating is our No. 1 priority as a union and as union leaders,” Kowal said. “It has to be. Because our success in negotiations with the state depends almost totally on how widely and deeply committed our members are. Every tool we need, every means imaginable, every step it takes, every moment we have will be used to turn our union into an active, energized force for progress and good in our state and nation.”

In other business, delegates:

    • Adopted a constitutional amendment to combine the statewide offices of secretary and treasurer, effective June 2017; and
    • Adopted resolutions and special orders of business in support of the union’s multifaceted action plan for 2016; salary equity for adjunct workers; and UAlbany’s handling of a racially motivated assault on three female students of color.

    Watch for the January/February 2016 issue of The Voice for more coverage of the 2016 Winter DA.

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