Excerise Your Precious Right to Organize
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Organizing is our union’s strength and essential to our survival. When contract negotiations take place, inevitably non-members ask questions about issues that are discussed during bargaining.
That’s a great opportunity to remind non-members that only union members have input into negotiations. It’s also a good time to point out that union members are forced to pay non-members’ share of the costs associated with negotiating and enforcing the contract.
We all know the phrases, have seen the posters and read the posts on social media. “Strength in Solidarity,” “Union Power” and “United We Bargain, Divided We Beg.”
We say the slogans; we believe them, but do we practice what we preach? We need to own these phrases and own our union. That does not mean we simply repeat the quotes to one another. It means we teach the uninformed what these quotes mean and we do that with our actions, not just our words.
We have a precious right that many workers on this planet can only dream of – the right to organize, to form a union. Not so long ago in this country, the union movement was beaten down by company thugs. Workers held their meetings in secret – in basements with blacked out windows. The right to organize is a union’s foundation, its path to success. Without it there is no future.
Signing up new members brings diversity to the union, enables us to hear dissenting voices, and helps ensure our union uplifts all. Non-members weaken the union, but they harm themselves even more. By withholding their voice and their opinions about how to make our workplace and union better, they are trapped in frustrated isolation.
We must show solidarity on the workroom floor as well as at the union office.
We must support each other in the workplace and lift each other up, not tear each other down.
We must support each other’s efforts because we all have the same goal, to form a better union and win a better life for postal workers.
We are not all alike and we don’t all do things the same way, but that doesn’t mean the new ways are wrong.
A successful organization is inclusive, not exclusive, and uplifting, not divisive. It fosters teamwork, not dictatorial mandates. To be successful, we must have a union that members want to belong to and feel a part of. We must promote an overriding sense of togetherness.
Only by working together will we succeed. Organizing is everyone’s job. How a steward or officer responds to a question or a concern affects organizing. Being good stewards of the union’s money affects organizing. Holding inclusive meetings that empower the membership affects organizing. Non-members will want to belong to a union they can be proud of.
The APWU is just that kind of union. In 2014, over 14,000 new brothers and sisters added their voices and their spirit to our union. Congratulations to all of them and to the locals who reached out and did the hard work to sign-up these new members.
Thank you for working with the Organization Department to make 2014 a great success. I look forward to continue working with you on Organizing for our Future.
Attention APWU locals! Please share with us your photos showing your organizing efforts. Send any pictures to: firstname.lastname@example.org.