Wanting Something vs. Getting It
(This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
It’s no secret that having more dues paying members makes locals stronger, but the benefits are more than financial.
New members mean greater solidarity, more camaraderie and a larger talent pool. Our union provides fairness in the workplace, healthcare that puts families first, security for the injured and a voice for postal workers in the halls of Congress. All this requires a team with diverse talents and a deep bench.
To get new members to join the union, locals need a plan. What makes a good organizing plan?
- A specific goal;
- A timeframe to achieve the goal;
- Trained organizers, and
- Funding to make it happen.
The Organization Department provides material and support and conducts in-depth training for organizers. But it’s the local plan that will make an organizing drive succeed.
This job isn’t just for union officers; every member can and should help strengthen the union. What can you do? Ask questions, get involved, and get active in union affairs. When you are working next to non-members, ask them to join. Relay their concerns to stewards or officers.
With 2015 just around the corner – and contract negotiations set to begin in February – this is a good time to launch an organizing drive.
As of Sept. 15, 2014, more than 8,300 new members have joined our union family. Welcome!
A Case Study: Door-to-Door Organizing
Brian Dunsmore, president of the Portland Oregon Area Local, was determined to establish an effective campaign to sign up new union members. He won support for the project from the state AFL-CIO, which conducted intense training for activists in the APWU and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
What made this drive different from others done by the APWU is that rather than just approaching non-members at work, in this drive union activists visited non-members at home. They talked to the non-members about why they are hesitant to join, and tried to convince them to get involved in the fight.
For each visit, an APWU member was paired with a member of the NALC. Nobody went out alone.
“During our first night out we knocked on the doors of 54 non-members in about 3½ hours,” the local reported.
“Overall the reception was great. Listening was key.” The pairs signed-up a few new members to each union; invited some folks who had more concerns to attend the next union meeting, and committed to follow-up with some who were on the fence.
“Whether they were members or not, we found that postal employees are very concerned about the direction the Postal Service is heading,” participants said. “Now is the time to ask our non-member co-workers to join together, be part of the solution, and stand strong.”
The organizing drive has blossomed into a wider campaign. In addition to the APWU and NALC, teams now include organizers from the Oregon AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers and AFSME.