Oct. 29 2016
CAP fosters ideas for campus, community projects
UUP’s second Chapter Action Project gathering yielded a bumper crop of good ideas that will get the union’s name out across campuses and into communities, following three days of intensive work to hone activism, solidarity and projects that members can set in motion.
“The purpose is very simple, and yet nothing is more important,” UUP President Fred Kowal, below, told 80 members at the conference’s opening session October 27 in Cooperstown. “The task before you is to build an army of activists that will give the union power like it’s never had before.”
The Chapter Action Project, or CAP, first convened in March, when a dozen UUP chapters met to work with NYSUT field staff as an important step in Kowal’s long-range plan to create a culture of activist unionism within UUP.
The union held a refresher course for the CAP participants in the spring, and then brought twice the number of original chapters together in Cooperstown. At this second gathering, members attended workshops on political action; building community partnerships; member engagement; and communication and the campus community. The workshops emphasized participation, with role-playing of different scenarios, such as outreach to potential new members of the bargaining unit.
In addition to Kowal, UUP officers in attendance included Secretary Eileen Landy, Treasurer Rowena Blackman-Stroud and Membership Development Officer Tom Hoey.
Energy and excitement
“People are fired up,” Landy said after meeting with her Old Westbury chapter members. “The energy is palpable, and that is what is so exciting about working with the CAP program.”
The idea behind CAP, Hoey said, is to create lasting activism at the chapter level, and “if we have this effort built, it should keep going on its own.”
A sampling of ideas put forth in the closing session would make the union more visible through social justice and service to members. Above,Leasa Rochester-Mills of the Buffalo State Chapter shares a thought as fellow Buffalo State member Jocelyn Tejeda listens.
Plans include cleanups in parks and on highways; chapter-sponsored author nights, with readings and talks on labor-themed books; community dinners around the forthcoming election; outreach to contingent and professional members; effective ways to increase membership; informal coffee hours so that members can socialize off campus; and greater outreach to student groups on campus.
Learning from each other
Participants said they got good ideas to take home just from listening to members of other chapters, and those attending for the first time said they enjoyed learning about greater activism, a lesson enforced through the role-playing sessions on outreach.
“There’s been good discussion about members and mobilization. And there’s information about a lot of small details, like making sure we ‘ve got the right contact information, and making sure you have a good discussion,” said Ocasio Willson of SUNY System Administration, a chapter that has members in New York City as well as Albany, and has been devising ways to bridge those two groups and reach out to those in the bargaining unit who have not yet signed membership cards.
Willson summed up his first CAP experience succinctly: “So far, so good.”
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