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INTERVIEW: Riverhead CSEA President Ken Schuhmann On Supporting Local Eateries Through Gift Cards

T.J. Clemente

Cliff's Rendezvous is among restaurants the Riverhead CSEA supported. (Photo: www.facebook.com)

In a conversation with Riverhead Civil Service Employee Association (CSEA) President Ken Schuhmann, he explained that this holiday season, the Riverhead CSEA is giving back to the local business community. In lieu of its annual holiday party that was canceled due to COVID-19, the CSEA is using its union dues to purchase gift cards for union employees from 22 locally owned stores, restaurants and delis that have been severely impacted by the pandemic. On December 16, more than 300 district employees were invited to stop by Riverhead High School to pick up one of the $25 gift cards of their choosing.

Schuhmann said, "What we generally do is we have the Civil Service Employee Association [NY State Union] annual meeting that we call a Christmas party, but it is our annual meeting. Because of COVID, we can't have that meeting. We now had thousands of dollars sitting in our treasury to pay for this meeting. So, we decided if we can't have the meeting, why don't we issue all of our members a $25 gift certificate in lieu of having the meeting. Then we decided, the executive board, we want to spend the money locally. We decided to go to the local [Riverhead] merchants who are hurting and spend our money there. We picked out 22 restaurants and delis in town and that's where we purchased fifteen $25 gift certificates from each place. We are now in the process of distributing to our members."

The gift certificates will be to specific Riverhead businesses. This gesture of supporting the local businesses and the fellow union workers is a significant move by the union's board and shows a wonderful expression of support via dollars by the union and its 330 members.

During the talk, Schuhmann expressed true compassion for the businesses of Riverhead. You could hear in his tone and choice of words how deeply he felt. He showed the best of how hard-working union workers think, feel, and behave. He also explained a silver lining to this year's plan.

Schuhmann said, "As everyone knows, most of the restaurants in town are really hurting. The membership loved the idea, the big picture is when we have our annual meeting, maybe only 125 people attend. So only 125 people benefit from the Christmas party/annual meeting. Here the entire 330 membership is benefitting."

In closing, Schuhmann said, "It's a union, not the district, it's a CSEA union, 8792, that is doing this. Some people are thanking the district, saying it is nice of the district to do this. It's not district money, it is union money. With union budgets, you have money to hold meetings, you have to spend this money." This year, instead of spending money on the refreshments, the entertainment, and the venue, the money is going to both "all the union members" and to local hurting Riverhead businesses. That is what you call a win-win!





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