PEF Emerging Leaders Institute - Feature ImageAugust 18, 2023 — The PEF Emerging Leaders Institute kicked off with a curriculum to train new leaders within the union. The program’s goal is to build upon the skills of current and new leaders while also fostering unity between age groups and generations. 

The Emerging Leaders Institute held its pilot program at union headquarters in Latham, N.Y., from July 28 to July 30. Over those three days, 14 members spent time with trainers from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) learning and discussing strategies around building strength within the union.  

The first day of training focused on values. The group discussed behavior within the union, how best to lead, and how to be mindful of diversity and anti-racism. The first day also challenged the leaders to consider themselves and how they think people perceive them. It was a way to show that leadership and change in the union begins within.  

“It was great to get to know some of the thoughts of the other members,” said Mickey Dobbin, a council leader at the State Education Department. He works as a Research Collections Technician at the New York State Museum. 

“I enjoyed learning about organizing and mapping. I agree it only takes one person to make a difference in someone else’s world,” said Erin Kelly, a Labor Services Representative at the Department of Labor in Rochester. 

“Sharing our perspectives during the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism work really stood out for me,” said Jacob Daly-Engel, who works as an Education Trainee at the Department of Education. “It was illuminating to see that the aspects of ourselves that we feel are important are rarely those aspects that are most important to others.” 

On the second day, members were introduced to more organizing-focused content, largely centered around campaigning, communication, and collective bargaining. They were given a chance to break into groups and develop mock campaigns as practice.  

Brian Silva works for the Department of Labor in Albany. He said that the training on the second day impacted him the most. 

In my position as an investigator for the Department of Labor, I often must read through the CBA’s (Collective Bargaining Agreements) that are done by the unions,” said Silva. “I honestly feel that this training can be geared towards the understanding of what the union goes through for our contract. It would give it a more ‘real life’ feel to it.” 

On the final day, the group practiced their public speaking skills and looked inward to discuss how best to take care of themselves when leading others. The training acknowledged that while this work is important, it is just as important to make sure that leaders are well enough and equipped to lead. 

Participants said that while they were apprehensive about the training at first, they were glad to have gone through the three-day course. 

“It was intense,” said Dobbin. “It was also a very invigorating crash course. It felt like something I needed.” 

Participants in the program are now working on an “in-service project” to be implemented in some way in their local communities, agencies or within the union.  

“I really want to take part in assisting PEF Organizing with making sure that new employees are fully informed about their union and what they do and how to fully become engaged with the local office,” said Sandy Darby-Roberts, who works as a Labor Services Representative at the Department of Labor in New York City. “I want to be able to bridge the gap and help them make connections with PEF.” 

While Darby-Roberts is focused on making the union more accessible to new members, others are looking at making sure current members are taken care of. 

“I have reached out to my division head, as well as some officers, to clarify the needs of the union and what needs to be addressed,” said Alan Fish. Fish works as an Information Technology Specialist for the Law Department. “Galvanizing the younger members into leadership is the number one issue on their minds. I proposed a social media campaign different than our current one to drive online engagement and followers.”  

“I want to add my muscle to the retirement reform discussion,” said Daly-Engel. “Tiers 5 and 6 need to go if we want to attract and retain the next generation of civil servants.” 

Those who are focused on problems in their agencies are eager to use the knowledge learned during the pilot program to help as soon as possible.  

I want to help get the word out on the need for more legal counsel in the Department of Labor. I want to show that the need is there, and it should be addressed before hiring more investigators,” said Silva. 

 The pilot program was a big hit and PEF is committed to welcoming new classes to the Emerging Leaders Institute in the months and years ahead.  

“We have five stewards in my department,” Dobbin said. “I want to get at least one Steward to attend the Emerging Leaders Institute every year.”