New Employee, New Union Member
(This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Missed opportunities to strengthen the APWU are happening every day. Each orientation for new hires, new career employees and PSE enrollment into Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB), is a chance for organizers and local union leaders to reach out to possible new members. Each of you can make a big impact by simply taking advantage of the language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). We must jump on these crucial minutes to provide education, outreach and empowerment.
The language in Article 17.6 states:
“During the course of any employment orientation program for new career or non-career employees… a representative of the Union representing the craft or occupational group…shall be provided ample opportunity to address such new employees.
“In addition, at the time non-career employees become eligible for health insurance, the APWU will be provided ample opportunities to address such employees on this subject…
“Health benefit enrollment information and forms will not be provided during orientation until such time as a representative of the Union has had an opportunity to address such new employees.”
The APWU and Postal Service reiterated and elaborated on the language in a recent Memorandum of Understanding. It is a waste of valuable opportunities to not speak to new career employees and PSEs at their orientations. They are a captive audience, wanting to know more about their new job. An APWU brother or sister can show how the union connects to the other aspects of the prospective members’ new job. It is easy to see how the CBA weaves into the pay scale, benefits and safety requirements for their position.
Resources Are Available
The national office does not expect you to do this on your own. We have numerous resources available for you to develop an orientation training program for prospective members.
The Welcome to the APWU book is geared to help guide you through the new employee orientation. Topics include the mission, structure, legislative efforts and history of the APWU. It also provides insight into the union’s safety standards and general benefits in the CBA. Information for all crafts and positions represented by the APWU is listed.
If you are presenting to PSEs, the recent PSE Brochure will guide you through the orientations. As the organizer, try to cover each bullet point in the brochure, but expand on the subject(s) that fit your local.
For organizers or local union leaders speaking to a group outside his/her own craft, see the Benefits At a Glance for Career Employees brochures. These pamphlets are craft specific.
All these materials are on the APWU website under the Organization Department, as part of the “Organizers’ Tool Kit,” www.apwu.org/organizers-tool-kit. If you want a print copy for the local or state organization, the order form is also available on the website.
Everyone Can Be An Organizer
Organizing is a daily responsibility. It is shared by everyone. There are moments in everyday activities where each of us has an opportunity to reach out and talk with prospective members about what it means to be union. We must put a face in others’ minds, so the words “the union” is made up of brothers and sisters, not a third party.
Let it start with you and others will follow. Consider the last time you stood up and clapped at an event. Were you the first person to stand, or did you follow suit? All it takes sometimes is one person standing up, and the whole room will join.