PEF’s western regions learn how to be strong, effective union force
Story and photos by SHERRY HALBROOK
More than 100 PEF members from Regions 1-6 were put through their paces at a leadership conference held at the Statler Hotel on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca March 31 through April 2.
“It was awesome!” said Cody Frost, a recreation therapist in PEF Division 259 at Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office in Monroe County.
It was Frost’s first chance to attend a PEF event that involved members from a wide variety of agencies and PEF regions. Frost, who was among the youngest members at the conference, said he was surprised to see the results of an exercise that got the attendees out of their seats to line up in order of their birth decade.
“It was really interesting to see all of the different generations that were represented,” Frost said. “And I liked having the opportunity to network with lots of members, especially those from the Buffalo area since I am going to transfer soon to work at the Western NY DDSO day habilitation program.
Frost said another high point of the event for him was the chance to learn about the referendum on a state constitutional convention that will appear on the general election ballot in November.
PEF President Wayne Spence updated the members on national legal and legislative threats to unions and workers, and how PEF is responding and preparing for those challenges. He called on all of them to help unify and engage their fellow members to be active and ready to face whatever obstacles lie ahead.
He said it was the very strong turnout of members for the two PS&T contract votes last year that have shown him, the governor and many others that PEF is a force to be respected.
The ambitious conference agenda also included: comments from PEF’s coordinators for regions 1-6 on what is working well in their regions and what are some of the challenges their members are facing, training workshops on health and safety, grievance writing and hearings, social media, and writing resolutions for the PEF convention.
It wasn’t all so technical, however.
Everyone got involved in a team building exercise called the “Marshmallow Challenge” that wasn’t as tasty as it sounds, but was a fun contest to see how well members could work together in small groups to come up with innovative and effective solutions to an unexpected problem – building the tallest freestanding tower out of spaghetti and a marshmallow — under deadline pressure.
In addition, the attendees heard about membership benefits and COPE.
They also got some tips on public speaking and how to engage and organize their fellow PEF members more effectively.