Building on Our Success
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Organization Director Anna Smith
We had an outstanding finish in 2016 with approximately 21,000 new members joining the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) family. Our success can be attributed to hard work and dedication at every level of our union!
The efforts to welcome new members in, while servicing our existing members, was not an easy task. Local leaders worked diligently to increase union presence at orientations when new employees came into the Postal Service. They encouraged our existing members to be actively involved in APWU events and took advantage of the organizing tools available.
State leaders also wasted no time taking advantage of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and settlements. They encouraged our coworkers in remote locations to strengthen our labor movement by joining the APWU. They did not let distance hamper their efforts, conducting “road trips” to visit the distant post offices they represent.
At the national level, we constantly reached out to non-members, letting them know what we were achieving on their behalf and what we could achieve by standing together. The door was open for every member to be actively involved in organizing. Members followed up on correspondences sent by the National, utilized the tools produced by the Organization Department and welcomed our non-member coworkers to join in the fight.
Just Getting Started
While we finished 2016 strong, it is vital to keep in mind that in order to increase our membership strength, more must join with us than leave the APWU. Traditionally, for every three or four members who join, we only increase our overall membership by one. We will always have those who, for whatever reason, decide to quit being a member, as well as those who retire, are terminated, find employment elsewhere or transfer to other crafts. We are also losing membership from privatization schemes and the forced consolidations of mail processing centers. It is an uphill battle, but we are moving in the right direction for the first time in many years!
When the Organization Department sends a mailing to non-members, we typically receive some excuses for why he or she is opting to not join. Ignore the excuses. Take the time to find out what the person’s real issues are. When speaking with the non-member, do not get into an argument defending who you are. Remember, you are the union!
As I read the excuses, I cannot help but think how much a non-member thinks “the union” is a third party. Meaning, if you and the non-member were the only ones physically in a room, “the union” is some other entity doing all these negative actions, keeping them from joining. Set the record straight, right then and there. You are the union, and the APWU is what you and your sisters and brothers make of it.
There is no time for breaks. We must build on this momentum. As a member, take the time to reach out to a non-member. Ask them if they are ready for change. Encourage them to join with us. Organizing is not about what one person can do, but what we can achieve by working together.
We face some serious challenges ahead. Every day we must constantly work to make our union visible in order to let others know that we are not going to let anyone destroy what we fought to build.
Congratulations on a job well done to every organizer in the APWU. Organizing is the life blood of our union. By working together in solidarity, we will continue to grow for our future!