AFT blitz in New Mexico broadens unionism for PEF nurse
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Ayanna Chastine spent five days in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) boot camp for union activists.
This registered nurse, who works at Rochester Psychiatric Center, was part of a 34-person labor team from states spanning from Alaska to Florida, who took five days off in the beginning of May.
“We learned what we needed to do in a week, and we did it in a week,” Chastine said.
What they learned was how to connect one-to-one with AFT members who are considering candidates for the upcoming election of governor, lieutenant governor, and U.S. representative for the first congressional district.
Although Chastine has done phone banking in the past for PEF-endorsed candidates, this time she was introduced to a virtual phone banking program where phone numbers were automatically in the system, and not on a paper list.
“All we had to do was log on, and a phone number would pop up. We dialed the number, a land line, and then read our script and explained why we were endorsing these candidates. The people in New Mexico were really informed about the candidates and knew what they were seeking and who they planned to vote for.”
Another first for Chastine was a labor walk using the MiniVan app, a canvasser guide that shows the street view of the doors where AFT members live.
The app made it a high-tech blitz, and Chastine compared it to “almost like using map quest.”
“Everything was mapped out and noted, as to how many members we spoke to or if we left informational materials on door handles. It was uplifting for me to participate. As assistant council leader, I see and handle member issues on a daily basis. So it was refreshing to see how other people come together who have professional issues as teachers, just as nurses do.
“In the labor movement, we are what I consider to be servant leaders. We are always trying to better our communities whether it is helping to elect the right people or changing laws.
“At one school that we visited in New Mexico, we were told a little girl was recently killed by a car. It was heartbreaking. The schools there do not have crossing guards or ‘Slow Children’ signs, just a couple of speed bumps. It made me feel humble and grateful that we have those things for our children in New York. In America, there are still places that need basic things to keep communities safe.”
Chastine said the labor boot camp opportunity was a learning experience, and one she has shared with her members, with the message that we all must continue to fight for what is right for the working class.
“The union is so much more than what people perceive,” Chastine said. “It is not just the benefits and negotiation of our raises. When you are able to help a community, I feel that defines and encompasses the value of a union.”