AFT’s PSRP Conference – Fighting Forward

By Rose Sakanis, CCCTU Classified VP

On April 28-30th four of our newest Classified division union leaders accompanied me to this year’s AFT conference for Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRP) which was held in Detroit. They were: Sarah Henderson (Prairie State), Erica Humphrey (South Suburban), Lilliana Raygoza (Morton), Norma Vasquez-Zwick (Moraine Valley). And I am pleased to say that this year’s conference was a huge success!

Local 1600 has been sending union leaders to the AFT PSRP conference for many years, but this year’s conference really hit the mark addressing key issues that we as union leaders may need to face in the near future. I was very impressed by the number of workshops that were available for our higher ed paraprofessionals to attend.

To start the conference off on a roaring note the first workshop on Friday focused on “Organizing a Rally.” The participants were broken down into groups; one group wrote chants, another wrote speeches, another made signs, and a fourth organized the logistics. And then it happened, an actual rally was conducted. I arrived late on Friday afternoon, but did make it in time to attend the rally with Lilliana and Erica.

The workshops that were offered were of a high caliber. They included topics such as; Community College Unionism in a Right-to-Work Environment, Building a Union Culture, Federal Legislative Updates, E-dues, Ergonomics, Leading to Organize, Workplace Bullying, and Building to Win in 2018.

Keynote speakers for the conference included Ruby Newbold from Detroit, who is the AFT PSRP Division Leader and Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT. Both speakers addressed the threat of national right-to-work that is looming over us and how to keep our members organized during the rough road ahead. Remember right-to-work is a deceiving term that actually means right-to-work for less. Randi also spoke to us about the devastating effects that the presidential election can have on us as well as the appointment of Betsey DeVos as Secretary of Education.

The best part of the conference took place amongst our group. Attending these conferences brings our own union leaders together. This is always the part that I enjoy and one of the many reasons why I advocate to send our leaders to these conferences. This new group of union leaders had the opportunity to get to know each other and to discuss some of the issues that they are facing at their own colleges each day. They had the opportunity to share tips on how to resolve issues and how to get their members organized and united. And, most importantly, they were able to build relationships with each other so they could interact with each other at future union events. They are all anxious to share what they have learned with others in our Local. For the Classified/Support Staff leaders who attended this year’s conference it was a winning trip not only for them, but for our members, and for our Local.

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