Sept. 4, 2017

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UUP shows union pride in Labor Day marches

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Barely two weeks ago, José Frago wasn’t even living in New York state. But the moment he joined the SUNY Cortland faculty, he was encouraged to sign a UUP membership card.

And he did.

Barely two weeks later, Frago was one of nearly 50 UUP members leading hundreds of unionists in the Central New York Labor Day parade, marching through the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse on a glorious—and long-awaited—sunny summer day.

UUPers from the Albany, Cortland, Environmental Science and Forestry, Morrisville, Oswego and Upstate Medical University chapters exuded union spirit as they marched, wearing their UUP T-shirts and waving “Union Proud” and “We Are UUP” signs. They were all celebrating Labor Day, one of only 10 federal holidays and the only one dedicated to hard-working Americans.

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UUP members also marched in Buffalo, above, and Massena on Sept. 4. UUPers also marched Sept. 8 in Albany and in New York City on Sept. 9. Statewide VPA Jamie Dangler, Secretary-Treasurer Jeri O'Bryan-Losee, and MDO Tom Hoey marched in the Syracuse parade.

“Labor Day is really about supporting working-class people,” said Cortland Chapter Secretary Bekkie Bryan, a member of the statewide Executive Board and a UUP organizer. “And unions are the way working-class people get ahead. Unions are why we have public education; it’s about being able to have a better life.”

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Bryan, above, right, was the one who encouraged Frago, above, left, to sign his union card and attend the parade.

“She came to me and told me that SUNY is unionized, and she said we’ve all got to support the college, the students and the union,” Frago said.

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Mike Lyon, right, an Upstate Chapter and UUP Negotiations Team member, never passes up an opportunity to stump for SUNY and UUP, and the state fair was no exception. He spotted Assemblyman Al Stripe (D-North Syracuse), left, and brought a few of his colleagues into the discussion.

Cortland Chapter member Cathy MacDonald said she believes unions can affect positive change, especially in the current political climate.

“I value public education, equity and access, and UUP helps make all that possible,” she said.

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Plattsburgh Chapter members took part in Massena's Labor Day parade. Above, Plattsburgh Chapter President and Executive Board member Kim Hartshorn, left, holds a UUP banner with Plattsburgh Chapter members Dave Curry and Deborah Zinser.

We're union strong in Massena for Labor Day," Hartshorn said in a Sept. 4 Facebook post.

UUP in NYC, Albany

Dozens of UUP members turned out for the NYC Labor Day parade Sept. 9, saying the times call for an especially strong show of strength across the full spectrum of unions in the United States.

"This is a statement that we love this country," said Jason Torre, a delegate, former Stony Brook Chapter president, and a member of the UUP Negotiations Team.

For many, the march up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, with cheering, applauding spectators lining the street, was also a statement that Donald Trump's vision of America is not shared by people who believe in diversity, tolerance and opportunity.

"This is the real meaning of Labor Day, so we come out in numbers," said Nakia Alford-Saunders, a professional with the UUP Downstate Chapter, as she scanned the floats, marching bands and banners of several thousand educators, health care professionals, skilled laborers, law enforcement officers and teamsters.

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Hoey represented the statewide officers on a day when parades took place at several locations around New York. Rowena Blackman-Stroud, Downstate Chapter president and former statewide treasurer, above, center, headed the largest UUP contingent, with members also marching from several other chapters, including Albany, Farmingdale, Stony Brook and Empire State College.

Weingarten offers encouragement

AFT President Randi Weingarten stopped to greet the higher education affiliates of her national union, including UUP.

She called Donald Trump a "snake oil salesman" and said people are starting to see through his message of isolation and divisiveness. Trump can't deliver the strong benefits, solid public schools and good incomes that people need, Weingarten said.

"You can't get those things for people without connecting to them based on their values, and you don't her those values without fighting against bigotry and hate," she said.

To get that message out in the face of federal court cases challenging the very right of unions to exist, UUP is developing a system of regional coordinators to work with chapter representatives at each campus on outreach and engagement. Educating members through this and other efforts is UUP's best defense against a strong anti-union sentiment, Hoey said.

"We need to reach down to the grass roots," he said. "It's education on what unions can do for people."

Strong Albany showing

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UUP members from the Capital Region also turned out for the Albany Labor Day parade Friday, and Hoey, above, left, also led the union's members in that march.

"There's power in numbers, and I think the more you're involved, it shows the power of the union," said Albany member Alyssa Lotmore.

Pamela Malone, president of the Empire State College chapter, agreed, saying that "there is palpable energy when you're marching with your sisters and brothers from other unions. You feel the solidarity in the air."

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