By DAVID A. COOK
I’ve used this space many times to talk about the importance of growing our union family through organizing. We’ve discussed the future of Labor more times than I can count, and it’s a virtual certainty that every single person reading this knows one of the biggest challenges we face: non-union competition and the shrinking of Organized Labor for the past several decades.
You don’t need to be an economist to see the clear and obvious trends: as unions shrink, so do wages and benefits, while income inequality explodes. Union workers make more money, have more benefits, and enjoy protections from discrimination or unfair treatment on the job. The American worker doesn’t want a handout; they just want an opportunity to work hard and support themselves and their family.
How do we reverse this trend? How do we give more workers a chance to decide whether or not they want to join a union and ensure they have the opportunity to enjoy a strong union contract?
Well, that’s a complicated question, and there’s not a single answer. It’s also not something we can fix overnight, but here at Local 655 we are doing our part, and in order to be successful, we need help from our hard-working partners like you.
That’s why we’re using an old program here at Local 655 for a new mission, and we want your help.
BECOME A SPECIAL PROJECT UNION REPRESENTATIVE
Some of you may be familiar with the Special Project Union Representative (SPUR). SPUR is a mechanism that allows a 655 partner to come work for their union for a limited period of time and then return to their workplace without losing any seniority, pay or benefits. All your benefits like healthcare and pension will continue to be paid, and your union will match your pay rate at your workplace. However, instead of reporting to your employer, you’ll be working with us on an organizing campaign.
Organizing work requires a certain skill set. We’re looking for energetic union partners who are comfortable talking with new people. Don’t worry – we’ll provide plenty of training on the best way to talk about unions with a non-union worker. We’re looking for hard-working partners who like a challenge, who can listen actively to workers, and who are flexible.
There will be some travel involved, so we’re looking for members who wouldn’t mind the occasional trip.
RETURN TO THE WORKPLACE WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING
Our SPUR participants can return to their workplace without losing anything, and their job is guaranteed when the project concludes. If you decide to give it a try and it’s not the right fit, then you may return to your ordinary work with no problem.
We can’t currently say how long this program will last because it will depend primarily on how successful our organizing campaign becomes.
At this point you’re probably wondering “who are we organizing President Cook?”
I can’t say just yet. That’s not because we want to keep people in the dark or because we don’t know. This is because we do not want the company we are targeting for organizing to get wind of our efforts before they get off the ground. Once a company becomes aware that a union is actively seeking to organize their employees, anti-union campaigns begin.
Anyone who followed the recent attempt in Alabama to organize the retail giant Amazon knows just how aggressive those campaigns can be, and how companies will use any means at their disposal to keep their employees from voting to join a union.
OUR STRENGTH COMES IN NUMBERS
This is a big campaign, and we believe its success will help build momentum for future organizing efforts. As we’ve said countless times before: our strength comes in numbers. Unions with more members have greater bargaining power and that power translates directly into union contracts with better pay and benefits. Unions that prioritize bargaining will become stronger and the entire American workforce will benefit from greater union density.
Ultimately, what we need are energetic and passionate union partners who want to try their hand at a new challenge. I can’t promise the work will be easy, but I can promise it’ll be unlike anything you’ve done before. I can’t promise we’ll win every fight, but I can promise you’ll learn new skills and feel a sense of reward that is unrivaled when we do win.
IF YOU’RE INTERESTED CONTACT YOUR UNION REP
If you’ve been reading this column and found your ears perking up with interest, then we are interested in having you. Come join the SPUR program we will be conducting here — see how your union works up close, meet people from across the country, and take a chance on participating in something truly unique.
If you or someone you know thinks this might be something you would enjoy, I urge you to contact your union rep immediately.