Spreading the Word: Emiljana Ulaj

Emiljana Ulaj, Regional Political Organizer, NYSUT, moved to the United States when she was 10 years old. She was born in Albania and her family left in 1997 because of the civil war. She and her family lived in a refugee camp in Italy for about a year and while there she was enrolled in a public school. Eventually, they found their way to America, more specifically Northern Westchester. She grew up in Northern Westchester and went to school in the Katonah school district. She then went to Bard College where she initially majored in Psychology. In her senior year of college, she got involved with Political Science. She feels she’s always been an activist at heart.

Growing up, her family was really lucky because her father was able to find a local union job at a public school represented by NYSUT. This job included full family healthcare a major benefit for them. This early experience with unions really made an impression on her about what a union job can do for a family and the impact it can have on a family. This is what led her to want to work in unions later. She worked for the state legislature, with assembly member and later state senator Shelley Mayer for about 4 years. During this time, she saw how organized labor is the strongest force fighting for the middle class and she wanted to be a part of this work. She then slowly found her way to NYSUT. She’s been at NYSUT for about a year. She had been doing communications work for a long time in the political world as her way of getting into politics. She slowly got herself involved in politics due to her lack of formal connections. After a while, she was looking for an organizer position that would have her use the skill set of talking to others about an idea and helping them ignite change.

Her official title at NYSUT is a regional political organizer. She works with 8-9 counties north of New York City. Her schedule is heavily dependent on the political calendar. She just finished school board work which is a major part of her job. A lot of her local unions and local school districts get involved in school board work. Either by endorsing candidates or trying to help the district pass the school budget. The district is limited because they can only tell people to vote, teachers unions can say “Vote yes!”. She works with 50 school districts that all pass budgets at the same time, making this a very busy time for her. One of her most rewarding experiences is when she gets involved with a local union based on a political issue they care about, and she engages their members in political action, and they win. She enjoys showing people what the power of organization can do. She’s very hopeful that through continued advocacy with the state, they can increase funding for public education and higher education, fix tier 6, and attract more teachers into the profession. Emiljana has the Democratic party’s support in running for Westchester County Legislature for District 9. If she’s elected in November, she will be able to do both her NYSUT job and serve on the county legislature.


Our profile of Emiljana Ulaj ends with her candidacy in last November’s (2023) elections to the Westchester County Board of Legislators. We are very pleased to celebrate her successful election as the legislator for District 9. Among other committee assignments, she serves as chair of the BOL Committee on Labor and Human Rights.

Congratulations Emiljana!