Q: What benefits do I get from being a CSEA member?

The range of benefits and services CSEA provides is unmatched by any other union in the House of Labor.

For the same amount that agency fee payers are required to pay, CSEA members get so much more. Besides a contract and representation on the job, CSEA members get to have a say at work by voting in union elections and ratifying their contracts. CSEA members also stay informed by getting subscriptions to union newspapers. And as a CSEA member you are also entitled to the most comprehensive package of benefits and programs you can find anywhere - saving you money and helping to make life better, both on and off the job.

With CSEA's member only benefits you can save money on insurance, mortgages, credit cards, major purchases and even legal matters. You also get great deals on vacations, cruises, hotels, rental cars, cellular phone service and more.

Q: What's the difference between a member and agency fee payer?

In most of CSEA's locals there are agency shop provisions required by law. This means workers who choose not to join the union must pay a fee equal to the amount CSEA members pay in dues. In return, CSEA represents these fee payers and negotiates a contract in their behalf. Agency fee payers don't, however, enjoy all the privileges of membership. They do not, for example, vote for union officers or vote to accept or reject their contract. They are also not eligible to take part in CSEA-sponsored programs and member only benefits.

Strangely enough, a lot of agency shop fee payers simply don't realize they're not full-fledged union members. Many of these people see money being deducted from their paychecks from week to week and assume this means they're paying CSEA dues. They are often surprised to learn they're not really members, and sometimes they're even angry when they discover this at contract ratification time or when other important issues are voted upon by the membership.

Q: Why does my membership card have two local numbers?

One of the numbers is your CSEA local. The other shows that your are also a member of CSEA's international union which represents public employees across the United States. In 1978, CSEA affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and became Local 1000 of AFSCME.

As a CSEA member you have the strength of two unions behind you - CSEA's nearly 300,000 members plus the 1.6 million members of AFSCME.

Q: What is AFSCME?

AFSCME is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. With more than 1.6 million members, AFSCME is the nation's largest and most powerful public employee union and CSEA is its largest affiliate.

Q: What benefits do we get from AFSCME?

CSEA's affiliation with AFSCME gives us access to the international union's numerous resources in such fields as research, negotiations, education and training, communications and health and safety. With AFSCME, CSEA has a lobbying voice in Washington and the political clout of being part of a 1.6 million member union.

Our affiliation with AFSCME also gives us protection under the AFL-CIO constitution from raids on our membership by other AFL-CIO affiliates. This allows CSEA to devote more time and resources to our members instead of on fending off challenges by other unions for the right to represent our members.

Q: What's the difference between a local and a unit?

CSEA is made up of more than 375 locals and more than 1,000 units deployed in six geographic regions throughout New York State.

Locals have an important role to build the union, protect and improve terms and conditions of employment of the membership and protect individual rights. Each local elects a president, at least one vice president, a secretary and a treasurer. The Local president is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in that local.

In CSEA's State and Private Sector Divisions, locals assist individual members with grievances, notices of discipline, collective bargaining and so forth. In CSEA's Local Government Division these activities are often conducted at the Unit level.

Units are subdivisions of the locals of which they are a member, and have the same basic structure as locals; a president, one or more vice presidents, a secretary and a treasurer. The Unit president is ultimately responsible for everything which transpires in the unit, and is directly responsible to the local.

The unit has the same basic responsibilities as the local: to build the union, to protect and improve the terms and conditions of employment of its membership and to protect the rights of individual unit members. In practice, this means that the unit negotiates and polices the collective bargaining agreement, assists members who have possible contract grievances or who have received notices of discipline, and communicates both with its own membership and with the local of which it is a member.

Q: How does CSEA pick the candidates it backs in national, state and local elections?

A CSEA endorsement tells you instantly that a candidate stands on your side on issues that affect your life and your livelihood. CSEA only endorses candidates who clearly will fight for the needs of the CSEA membership and candidates who win CSEA endorsements wear them as a hard-won badge of honor.

CSEA's endorsement process is comprehensive, beginning with Political Action Committees (PAC's) comprised of CSEA members appointed by their unit and local presidents with executive board approval. CSEA has PACs at the unit, local, region and statewide levels. In each case, the records and public statements of the candidates are reviewed at the appropriate level. Candidates are invited to meet with the PAC to answer questions regarding their position on matters of specific interest to CSEA members.

All candidates for office have the same opportunity to earn a CSEA endorsement regardless of party affiliation. When considering a candidate for endorsement, the PACs examine a wide variety of factors, but the most important factor is the candidate's record or position on issues of importance to CSEA members.

Q: Who do I talk to about my workplace problem?

The CSEA shop steward is the primary link of communication between the workers and the union. Your shop steward is appointed by your local or unit president and serves to organize the workplace, educate the members about the union, lead the members and represent their co-workers.

If you don't know who your shop steward is, ask one of your local or unit officers for help. To find out who your local or unit officers are, contact your Region Office.

Q: How can I get a copy of my contract?

CSEA contracts may be distributed by either your local or unit officers and stewards or by your employer. If you haven't received a contract or need a new one, tell your shop steward. He or she will be able to get one for you.

Q: What do I do if I'm not receiving my copy of The Work Force in the mail?

If you are not receiving your CSEA newspaper contact the CSEA Membership Records Department at CSEA Headquarters, 143 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12210-2302, 1-800-342-4146 Ext. 1331, so they may check for an incorrect address or other problem and correct it.

Q: How does someone run for CSEA office?

Any member who is eligible for office who submits the required number of nominating signatures will be placed on the ballot as a candidate for office.

Generally, in order to be eligible, a candidate must be at least 18 years of age, must be a member in good standing for a specified period of time, shall not have been a member of a competing labor association or union for a specified period of time, and shall not be serving a disciplinary penalty imposed by the Judicial Board of CSEA.