Many AFT affiliates have been building membership for years.
In California, the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees has been reaching out to new workers as soon as they’re hired. Bus driver and union member Johnny Billups attends new hire orientation sessions. “Johnny, as soon as we have new employees, he signs them up within a matter of days,” says BCCE President Paula Phillips. At other times, “it’s all about the site reps going out and talking to them.”
Of about 600 represented by the local, only 45 are agency fee payers. Billups finds the union “accessible and personable,” a place where you can get involved, find out what’s going on and make a difference. A place you can trust.
“The union is going to be working for you, so participate in it,” Billups says. “That’s the way I believe.”
THE PEORIA Federation of Support Staff revamped its structure of building representatives. Union activists surveyed their reps, recruited new ones, held monthly trainings and assembled a building rep toolkit. Within two months, the number of agency fee payers dropped by 60 percent as employees realized the importance of membership in their union.
School secretary Marcy Lee, along with teaching assistants April Scott and Gail Johnson, kicked into high gear after last November’s elections. Working together at their high school, the trio signed up cafeteria workers and paras, many of whom were fair share payers who thought they were members. Lee signed up about a dozen members herself. The magic words, she found, are: “We need you.”
Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2012, eliminating agency fee for workers who did not feel like joining the union but still could receive its benefits. It also ended payroll deduction of dues, so members had to go to the trouble of recommitting to their union every year. Well, the Van Dyke Educational Assistants Federation did not take this lying down. They went out and obtained a 100 percent recommitment from members in a massive show of solidarity and support.