Marcy Lee

School secretary
Peoria (Ill.) Federation of Support Staff

‘We need you’

Marcy LeeTo strengthen membership in each of its schools, and to boost the enthusiasm of each member, the Peoria (Ill.) Federation of Support Staff revamped its entire structure of building representatives. Union activists surveyed their site reps, recruited new ones, held monthly training sessions and assembled a building rep toolkit.

Within two months, the AFT affiliate’s number of fair share payers—those who pay only their share of the cost for the union to bargain and administer their contract—dropped by 60 percent as school employees realized the importance of membership in the union.

It may sound like magic, but this surge in membership didn’t happen by magic.

One example: At Manual Academy, a high school in Peoria, a small band of school staff was ready to rumble. School secretary Marcy Lee, along with teaching assistants April Scott and Gail Johnson, wasted no time. They didn’t need to see the governor’s proposed cuts to higher education, public employee pensions and healthcare to know that balancing the budget on the backs of working families is reckless and wrong.

So instead of resigning themselves to four years of reduced support for public services, the trio kicked into high gear. They signed up school cafeteria workers and paraprofessionals, many of whom were fair share payers who thought they were members. Lee signed up about a dozen members herself.

“I enjoyed doing it,” she says matter-of-factly, as though it was no big deal. Still, Lee admits, she did find a little magic in using these three words: “We need you.”