(photo credit: Morgan Gwenwald)
I went to my first union meeting at work this evening in about a decade. Since I came to SUNY New Paltz in 2000, I’ve always belonged to the union - and have appreciated the work that the good folks who run the union do on my behalf. Until recently, however, I’ve generally stayed clear of things like politics and unions. Of course, that all changed since 11/8/2016. Like many of us, I now find myself hell-bent on taking steps to address what many of us consider nothing short of a national crisis.
So I now am finding myself playing a highly active role in the progressive organization Move Forward New York, which is dedicated to helping correct the national situation as effectively and efficiently (and peacefully!) as possible. So when Debra Clinton, our fearless leader, asked me if I’d be willing to organize a Not My President’s Day rally on President’s Day, I was all in.
As a long-standing member of the SUNY New Paltz community, I quickly thought of our campus as a venue for such an event. After all, it’s got lots of space, is centrally located in town, and offices were slated to be closed that day. Then I got to thinking - how do you go about booking your campus for an event of this kind - when done under the banner of an external entity such as Move Forward New York? Hmm …
So I got thinking about who on campus might be willing to work with us to make this happen. We needed a formal campus entity to co-host this event. Then it came to me. Let me contact the union!
I’ve been a dues-paying member of UUP (United University Professions http://uupinfo.org/ ) for years now - and I figured that the union might be up for co-hosting this kind of event. I was welcomed, by our chapter president (Beth Wilson) and by the full union president (Fred Kowal) quickly and warmly, with open arms. In short, the answer was “yes, let’s do this!”
Well, long story short, the event was a huge success (see the several media pieces on the event at the bottom of this page) - and it turned out that the synergy between the UUP and Move Forward New York was pretty much perfect.
At the union chapter meeting this evening (just a few days after the rally), both Beth and Fred gave awesome speeches. And both focused largely on the connections between the current national situation and the goals of UUP. You see, as I’d suspected, the leadership of UUP is just as distressed about the current national situation as I am. As evidence of this point, our local UUP Executive Board voted unanimously to support the UUP/MFNY collaboration with what ended up being our highly successful rally.
Further, both Beth and Fred indicated that some UUP members have not been happy with the idea of UUP formally supporting such events as the New Paltz Not My President’s Day rally or the Women’s March on Washington (UUP was the first union to formalize an affiliation with that event!). And I have to say that their responses to these criticisms spoke volumes to me. The union’s take is essentially this: The nation is in a crisis right now - and this crisis is directly affecting SUNY in a variety of ways (e.g., reduced international student matriculation, reduced international attendance at SUNY-affiliated conferences, general concerns about the welfare of public education, etc.). I’m glad to see that my brothers and sisters in the UUP see this situation exactly as I do - and are willing to stand for what is right!
Collaborate with Your Union!
If you are interested in helping fix the current national crisis - and if you are in a union, I suggest that you attend your next chapter meeting. If you’re part of Move Forward New York, or Indivisible, or one of the many organizations that has recently emerged in an effort to help fix things, you might want to see about connecting your organization with your union. Here are some reasons that such a collaboration can be a good idea:
- There is a good chance that your union is strongly aligned with your take on the current national situation.
- An existing labor union will have resources (per your hard-earned union dues!) that can help cover fiscal costs.
- An existing labor union will have qualified personnel (typically including elected leadership) and staff.
- An existing labor union is typically a formal, long-standing organization that may have helpful things such as liability insurance for hosting rallies in public places and other things that may well come in handy during this long-term struggle. .
- An existing labor union likely is filled with an army of concerned citizens who are fully committed to the cause.
- Labor unions are comprised of experienced political activists - skilled individuals who will gladly support your events and your cause.
- And if that’s not enough, an existing labor union likely has a bullhorn that you can use at rallies!
We are currently in a national crisis - and if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.
Looking for help in addressing the problems that surround us today? In addition to looking toward such groups as Move Forward New York, Indivisible, Move On, etc., I suggest that you connect (or, as in my case, re-connect) with your union if you are a member of one. For a whole host of reasons, my guess is that you will be welcomed with open arms - with an army ready to work with you - as we all work, together, to reclaim our great nation.
If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.
Glenn Geher - proud member UUP and of Move Forward New York
Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity.
Media Coverage of New Paltz’s Not My President’s Day Rally
Full video (via Amy Dooley Mosbacher) of event:
Poughkeepsie Journal: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/ulster-county/2017/02/20/not-my-presidents-day-rally-new-paltz/98152696/
Times Herald Record: http://www.recordonline.com/news/20170220/new-paltz-rally-on-presidents-day-slams-trump-policies
Daily Freeman: http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20170220/hundreds-at-suny-new-paltz-rally-against-trump
Time Warner Cable News: http://www.twcnews.com/nys/hudson-valley/news/2017/02/20/hundreds-attended--not-my-president-s-day-rally--in-new-paltz-.html
Hudson Valley One: https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2017/02/21/persist-and-resist-was-the-message-at-suny-new-paltz-not-my-presidents-day-rally/