Wappingers Congress of Teachers
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    Action Center

    Updated On: Oct 26, 2016

    By Diane DiChiara, Secondary-at-Large.

    This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in NYSUTs Local Action Project (LAP) along with fellow unionists Rena Finsmith (JJ), Keri Roger (JJ), Pasquale Delli Carpini (JJ) and Jim Marrinan (Oak).  I didn’t want to participate at first; I felt I already dedicate a large portion of my time to union work, and it was time for someone else to step up. Well, you know how that goes…so I went, and I am glad I did.

    By its definition, the word union means joining together. One of the goals of LAP is to “strengthen local unions and their communities through coalition building, political action and communication” (NYSUT). We experienced five days of rigorous training along with six other local unions.  Year one is part of a three-year commitment. The topics were member involvement, political action, community engagement and communications.  We also received information on current critical issues, which included the Friedrich case. 

    One of our first LAP tasks was to do a self-assessment of the WCT.  This was a realistic look at the WCT Executive Board, Representative Assembly and membership.  We have 867 members; 40% of those members live in the WCSD. As we assessed, we realized that some of our most successful (large portion of WCT participated) activities were the 2015 Route 9 Rally, the 2015 letter writing campaign and the 2014 BOE demonstration about stalled contract negotiations. Our biggest flops were the end of the year recognition party for colleagues (retirees, 25 years of service, tenure, National Board, Master Teachers), the General Membership Contract Ratification meeting, and the Happy Hour Thank You (for participating in Route 9 Rally).

    Membership Involvement

    (Information gathered from attendance and sign-in sheets for various functions)


    Number of People


    Core Members (Very Involved)



    Ongoing Members (Fairly Involved)



    Intermittent Members (A little Involved)



    Peripheral Members (Not at all Involved outside of membership meetings)



    Invisible Members (not at all involved)


    Less than 1

    The three greatest political issues that are pertinent to WCT members are APPR, the Opt-out Movement and the over-testing of our students in the classroom. The average contribution to VOTE-COPE (40% of these dollars come back to the WCT and are used to support positive BOE members campaigns among other things) per member is $44.00. 

    Community Outreach is minimal with some outreach to the PTA/PTO groups and local business councils. There is minimal to no involvement with Senior Citizen Groups, Religious Groups, and other Community organizations.  We do exhibit strength in our affiliation with other Labor Organizations.

    While we communicate in many ways with our membership through the Commentator, Facebook, the WCT Webpage, texting and Twitter, there is limited two-way communication with the membership.  Our external communication is negligible.

    Once the self-assessment was completed it was time to develop an action plan. Because of this training, the WCT realizes that the vision of how our members see themselves must change.  We cannot strengthen the WCT without member engagement. We must build upon community relations through areas of commonality such as charitable events, literacy and recognition of our local first responders.  Furthermore, we must continue to grow in our support of new teachers, face-to-face communication with members, two-way communication and in the defense of the labor movement.

    We begin to change our vision by changing our vocabulary – we need to move from referring to ourselves as “members” to calling ourselves “unionists”.  As a “member” you elect building reps and an executive board, and when you are in need, you call upon a building rep to assist.  You receive. As a “unionist” you are the union, participating in community days, food drives, forums and political action rallies. You act. At present, our country and our state are exploding in anti-worker rhetoric aimed at destroying our nation’s unions – the unions that created and will continue to maintain our middle class.  All benefits that today’s employees currently enjoy come from the struggles of the first and second-generation unionists. One lesson learned from LAP – we will either be the greatest generation of unionists or the last generation

    As a unionist, you have responsibilities. You should attend the monthly building meeting held by your senior building rep. As a unionist, you should go to your senior building rep and ask how you can be more active in the WCT. As a unionist, you should attend the forums held by the WCT.  As a unionist, you should expect face-to-face contact by your building reps. As a unionist, you should attend WCT social events. As a unionist – you should be active.

    The new WCT vision has begun! The changes began with the support of new teachers to our district.  This year, the WCT collaborated with the WCSD and split the August orientation day.  At noon, the new teachers were transported by WCSD school bus to the new WCT union office.  There they were welcomed and received lunch prior to receiving information about the WCT. They were able to ask questions and resolve any confusion about medical benefits and the Welfare Trust Fund; moreover, they were able to see the WCT as separate from the WCSD.  Also, the WCT Representative Assembly had its first meeting in August rather than September. Each member will now receive a hard copy of The Commentator. Like any newspaper, members are expected to contribute through letters to the editor, articles, and pictures – celebrate what’s going on our classrooms and our members’ lives. An improvement in external communication is that our Director of Political Action, Jim Marrinan, has begun to forge partnerships with the local newspapers (Poughkeepsie Journal and the Southern Dutchess News) as well as Nina Schultzman (PJ) on Twitter.  Speaking of Nina, she attended our first WCT Forum with Andy Pallotta (VP NYSUT) and tweeted live from the event; she followed up with an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal.  At the General Membership meeting, members were asked to complete a questionnaire.  The purpose of the questionnaire was simply to gather information.  We realize that some members may have thought otherwise, but that was not the intention. Because of the survey we have been able categorize organizations/charities which our members are most interested – hunger, illness (mental and physical), sports, and church/charitable organizations. Furthermore, because of the survey we realize that our member want a change in the General Membership Meeting format. This has already been discussed at the WCT executive board.  More to come…

    The LAP Committee is actively seeking members to work on an area of interest. You should expect that your senior or junior building rep will approach you about being part of the larger LAP committee. Katherine Degroat has already volunteered to work in behalf of hunger, which includes our local food drives.  Dawn Sala has volunteered to work on behalf of students with our WCT grant (bullying, character ed, PBIS, etc). 

    Reach out to the LAP committee members; share your ideas and vision for the WCT.  You are the union. Let the WCT be part of the greatest generation of unionists, not the last generation.

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