UFCW Local 655 unveils ‘EMMA,’ union’s new digital servicing program

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By COLLIN REISCHMAN

“EMMA,” a totally digital membership servicing program, the first of its kind in Missouri and one of the few such programs in the U.S. that could represent the future for unions, will be launched this month by UFCW Local 655, the largest private-sector local union in the state.

“EMMA” (Electronic Membership Management Application) is the creation of a UFCW local in Texas and because of its unusual success in membership servicing, a handful of UFCW locals in the country are in the process of implementing it, including St. Louis.

The system, “allowing our local to go entirely digital, is a complete overhaul of how we do things, and represents the future of what local unions need to be doing now to meet the challenge of the future,” said Local 655 President David Cook.

“Employers are modernizing, so is the world around us. It’s important for us to embrace that and find more efficient ways of serving our members.”

Once the new program is in place, a Local 655 union representative will essentially be able to do everything from a single iPad: union applications for new members, grievance forms, employer contracts and more will all be right at their fingertips. The new program is part of Local 655’s effort to make sure all new members are personally welcomed to the union family by a union representative within their first 60 days of employment, Cook added.

The new digital program gives unprecedented capabilities to Local 655’s staff to track store visits. With EMMA, a union representative can walk into any store and see who is working at that moment, and who they have spoken to recently. The system allows representatives to make sure no Local 655 member goes too long without a chance to speak with their union representative.

OVER A YEAR IN THE MAKING

Cook said this was the culmination of more than a year of planning.

“Our intention has always been to be in a position to sign up every single new Local 655 member ourselves,” Cook said. “It’s important that the first exposure to our union that any new member has is a conversation with our staff so they can learn firsthand about the value of their union membership.”

The new system will also provide more detailed information about members in a digital form, allowing the local to streamline its ability to communicate with members with more targeted messages based on age, workplace, location, and more.

THE FUTURE FOR UNIONS

Cook said he believes the new system represents the future of Labor in Missouri, and says he expects more and more unions will want to adopt similar high-tech practices in this digital age.

“The most important thing a union does is support its members,” Cook said. “If we can utilize new technology to be more efficient and more available, then we have an obligation to our members to do just that. We work for them.”

Local 655’a staff has been working for months to upload everything a member might need directly into the EMMA system, and will complete training on the new system later this month.

(Collin Reischman is Local 655’s communications director.)

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