January 31, 2023

Winter institute fires up local leaders

Author: Molly Belmont
Source:  NYSUT Communications
leadership institute
Caption: Jeff Grabelsky, the co-director of the National Labor Leadership Institute at Cornell, talked to local leaders about adaptive leadership. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Union activists from across the state gathered in Saratoga Springs in January as part of the NYSUT Leadership Institute. Three dozen leaders met to discuss successful labor strategies and learn from one another.

Since 1997, the NYSUT Leadership Institute has prepared new and emerging union activists to assume greater leadership roles within their locals and the statewide union. The three-day intensive offered these leaders a mid-year chance to discuss some of the latest issues facing the educators.

It also gave leaders the opportunity to reconnect and share their experiences during the six months since their last conference.

“How many of you left our session in August all psyched up and then you got back to your locals and reality crashed in?” asked Elizabeth Vignaux, NYSUT Teaching Fellow.

NYSUT Leadership Institute Winter Session

Leaders spoke openly about challenges they are encountering, and they shared solutions they had learned.

“It boils down to genuine relationships,” Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT Executive Vice President explained during a session she co-presented, Member Apathy: Addressing the Real Issues. “You can’t ask your members for help only when the contract is about to be up, or only when you’re running for re-election.” Instead, leaders must care about what their members care about and meet them where they are, she said.

One-to-one meetings, rotating to different buildings, and walking the halls can go a long way toward making leaders more accessible to their members.

The winter’s conference also offered labor history lessons and team building activities.