May 5, 2017
By WNYLaborToday.com Editor-Publisher Tom Campbell
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Cheektowaga, NY – Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 815 President Denise Szymura, who oversees Erie County’s Union of 5,000 Public Employees, is the 2017 recipient of the Statewide Union’s prestigious Irene Carr Leadership Award.
“Irene Carr was the former Statewide Secretary of CSEA ‘who wanted the job to be more than just taking numbers,’ and (Denise Szymura) is ‘absolutely deserving.’ She is ‘an exemplary leader’ who has ‘also taken on a lot of community activities,’” CSEA Western Region President Flo Tripi told WNYLaborToday.com of what she added was a “well-deserved” honor.
The Irene Carr Leadership Award recognizes individuals within CSEA who demonstrate continuous leadership in fighting for Labor Rights in the workplace, particularly those that impact women. According to the CSEA requirements, it is someone who: Encourages and mentors women to be Activists in the CSEA and/or the Labor Movement as a whole; Advocates for Workers Issues, such as equal pay for equal work, ensuring access to affordable child care, flexible work hours, or health and safety issues specific to women; and Ensures issues of discrimination, harassment and/or equal treatment are addressed in the workplace.
Szymura, who is getting ready to serve her second straight four-year term after recently running unopposed, said she was “pretty surprised” to receive the honor while attending CSEA’s Statewide Women’s Conference that was recently held in Saratoga Springs, where 300 CSEA Members across New York were inspired and empowered as they received the tools the Union says they need to keep CSEA moving forward in the face of challenges.
“I ‘just come to work every day and do my job,’” Szymura humbly told WNYLaborToday.com. “I am ‘certainly honored that people think I do the kind of work that (Irene Carr) did.’ She was a ‘phenomenal’ person. ‘She was quite an Activist for CSEA over the years and stood up for Worker Rights.’ ‘She was everywhere,’ from the picket lines to ‘holding people’s feet to the fire.’”
Szymura – who also heads the Western New York Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) – told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper that she made the decision to get more involved with her Union while working as a County Employee years ago: “I got involved in my Union because I had a supervisor who was ‘treating me wrong.’ ‘And there was no other way to change that.’ It’s ‘difficult when people don’t treat each other with respect in the workplace, so I try to use my experiences by reaching out to people and try to get them involved.’ ‘I try to give the best advice I can and set a good example.’”