Organizing New Members

When prospective members check your website what will they find? Is there compelling information that would make them want to join your union?  Is there an easy way for them to contact your organizing department? Organizing leads can come from anywhere. Providing prospective members with a recruitment page will help bring in additional leads to your union.

Title the Page Appropriately

This is not the time to be vague. Titling your page “Join Our Union” removes all doubt about its purpose. Being clear will help significantly with organizing new members.

Write About What Joining Your Union Will Mean for Them

A large part of organizing new members is talking about what union representation will mean for them.

“If you want fairness and respect at work, join…”

“By joining together, working women and men gain strength in numbers so they can have a voice at work about what they care about. They negotiate a contract with their employer for things like a fair and safe workplace, better wages, a secure retirement and family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave and scheduling hours.”

Provide Testimonials From Members

Testimonials from current members provide prospective members with personal accounts of what union membership has to offer. Utilize photos, names and titles to reinforce the professions your members organize.

“Joining our union is the best decision we ever made. Having a union contract protects us at work.”

“I’ve worked in places where there is no union. Being a member of our union protects us from being terminated just because an administrator doesn’t like us.”

Provide Means for Contacting Your Union

Providing a simple email form and a phone number will give prospective members multiple ways to contact your organizing department. Prospective members may be reluctant to speak about joining out of concern for their job and safety. Remind them that their contact information will remain confidential.

Share the Wealth

If the prospective member isn’t a good fit with your union for some reason, ask them if you can share their contact information with another union that may be a better fit. These people have reached out because they want a voice at the workplace. Just because your union doesn’t represent their profession doesn’t mean they don’t deserve representation. Help put them in touch with a union that will represent them.

Bringing the Meeting to Your Members

Meet Richard Hayes. He Picks Up Mitt Romney’s Trash.

The 2013 Multimedia Award winner was the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for their campaign featuring public workers who service Mitt Romney’s La Jolla, Calif., neighborhood.

As the 2012 Presidential election was in full swing, AFSCME Local 127 (Council 36) members Richard Hayes, Joan Raymond, and Temo Fuentes told their stories and helped definitively shift the national conversation about the best candidate to represent all Americans, not just the wealthiest 1 percent.

In recognition of these members’ influence during the election, Campaigns and Elections Magazine awarded AFSCME a prestigious Reed Award for its “Meet Richard” video series. It won in the Web Video: Ballot Initiative or Independent Expenditure category.

The video series highlighted Richard and Joan, who are San Diego sanitation workers whose route includes the wealthy La Jolla, Calif., community where Mitt Romney has a beachfront villa. Temo repairs the fire trucks that service La Jolla. They told the world how Romney’s harmful economic policies would affect them and working people across America.

Their stories exploded, garnering more than 1.6 million views and receiving coverage from Politico, MSNBC, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and The Washington Post, among many others. It was even featured by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who spoofed it with a video called “Manservants for Mitt.”

AFSCME launched the video series two weeks after Romney’s infamous 47 percent remarks and right before the Vice Presidential debate. It helped keep the spotlight on Romney’s out-of-touch comments and kept the focus on the right-wing ticket’s dangerous policies for working families.

Richard, Joan, and Temo told their stories and they were heard. Loudly and clearly.

Driving Members to Your Website

Let’s Go to the Videotape: Lobby Day Activism

Video has become one of the most powerful means of communication. Looking for proof of something? Video provides it. So, how can unions use video evidence to further their goals? Here’s one example.

Lobby Day Activism

Many unions hold lobby days at their state legislature for their members. Union members meet with union officers, political directors and lobbyists to learn about key pieces of legislation and the message the union wants to deliver to legislators.

Political directors and lobbyists generally know prior to the lobby day what issues members will be covering and may also have a vote count of legislators on those issues.

By creating teams of member lobbyists, one to speak with their legislator and one to video the conversation on their smartphone, unions can get legislators on the record.

“Senator, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. As your constituent and a member of the union, I want to know if you will be supporting SB 100 which protects my pension.”

Depending on the legislators answer, that video can immediately be uploaded to the Internet (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) and then emailed out to members in that legislators district (e.g. Salsa, Blue State Digital, etc.) asking them to take action.

Legislator Supports: This email and their subsequent contact thanking the legislator will help reinforce their position on the issue.

Subject: Thank Senator Smith for protecting your pension

Dear member,
Senator Smith is supporting SB 100 which will protect your pension. Here’s what Senator Smith had to say.

Contact Senator Smith and thank him for protecting your pension.

Legislator Waffles: This email and their subsequent contact requesting the legislator’s support may help move their position on the issue.

Subject: Tell Senator Smith to support your pension

Dear member,
Senator Smith hasn’t committed to supporting SB 100 which will protect your pension. Here’s what Senator Smith had to say.

Contact Senator Smith today and ask him to support SB 100 and protect your pension.

Legislator Opposes: This email and their subsequent contact requesting the legislator change their position may help move their position on the issue.

Subject: Demand Senator Smith protect your pension

Dear member,
Senator Smith is opposing SB 100 which will protect your pension. Here’s what Senator Smith had to say.

Contact Senator Smith today and demand he support SB 100 and protect your pension.

Tools Used:


When a legislator changes their position on the issue it is important to get that information out to members immediately and have them contact those legislators again, especially if their position has changed to a positive one.

Activating Your Members: Patch Through Calls

Activating Your Members: Robocalls

Five States to Watch

With the 2014 elections just behind us, many politicians are talking about bi-partisanship and the opportunities to work together to get things done. Yeah. Because there were no opportunities to do that for the last six years.

The only actions Congress will be taking during the next two years will be ones that benefit the Republican Party, corporations and the 1%.

The states are another matter entirely. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) insidiously provides state legislation that continues to erode the middle class in America, while ALEC’s evil little brother, the American City County Exchange (ACCE), does the same at the local and county level. There are 23 states that now have Republican control of both the state legislature and governor’s office. There are also seven states with Republican governors and split state legislatures. These states provide ALEC its best opportunities to undermine the rights of workers, destroy our environment, cut taxes for corporations and the 1%, and more.States To Watch Corporate Servitude Law

The states to watch will be Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. These five states do not have the corporate servitude law known as “right-to-work.” Given that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is contemplating a 2016 presidential bid, he may not wish to rile union members by supporting this anti-union law. Maine and Massachusetts are significantly more vulnerable. With newly elected Republican governors, these two states represent a long sought-after foothold in the Northeast for anti-union groups. Passing corporate servitude legislation in both of these states would give union busting groups the leverage they need to push for a national corporate servitude law.

In the meantime, keep an eye on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (pending before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) and Hamidi v. SEIU Local 1000 (currently in California district court). These two cases are exactly what Supreme Court Justice Alito requested in his opinion on Harris v. Quinn in order to make corporate servitude the law of the land. On January 24, lead counsel in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court asking it to review the case.  If the Court grants the petition, the case likely will be heard in the fall of 2015, with a decision expected by June, 2016.

While Congress may continue to do nothing, there will be plenty of damage being done in the states. Labor unions will need to be vigilant.

You can learn more about ALEC at

RTW Quietly Mutates, Taking Attack on Workers to City, County Councils

By Ed Finkelstein

Like a deadly disease mutating into an even deadlier form, right-to-work has mutated in a new, more sinister direction.

Quietly, the American City County Exchange (ACCE) –– an initiative of the archconservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) –– has begun working to pass right-to-work laws at the city and county level.

Or at least that appears to be its public goal.

A review by the Labor Tribune of the group’s initial efforts clearly indicates a new right-wing strategy, one where RTW backers, whether they win or lose at the local level, expect legal challenges from the losing side that will ultimately get the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The legal challenges, funded by the National Right To Work Foundation or the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, will wind up before what one reporter called “the corporate-friendly U.S. Supreme Court.”

Until now, ALEC has contented itself with providing template anti-union legislation for captive state lawmakers to submit as their own to try to cripple workers’ rights and collective power at the state level. Missouri is one of the states where ALEC has been extremely active. The failed RTW bill in this year’s legislative session was one of ALEC’s cookie-cutter bills.

Local Communities Easy Pickings

The new approach bypasses statewide efforts –– usually expensive and time consuming –– in favor of enacting boilerplate bills in local cities, towns, villages and counties where the effort is far less expensive and the influence of radical right-wing corporations and politicians is easier to exert.
At the local level, ACCE has two routes to travel: a local initiative petition, if it’s allowed by state law, or passing a local ordinance through the city council.

Currently, legal experts say such efforts are illegal. The common understanding is that federal law, under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, allows only states to enact RTW laws.

That has not deterred the ACCE. Heritage Foundation legal scholar Andrew Kloster, speaking at a recent Heritage Foundation forum, said the issue is simply not mentioned in Taft-Hartley, leading most to assume that Congress meant for only states to have that right.

And whether it’s legal may not matter. Win or lose at the local level, ACCE’s strategy is to prompt litigation –– at great expense to city and county councils –– with the ultimate goal of getting the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Initial Targets Reject Effort

ACCE is currently focusing its efforts on three cities in Washington State. However, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New Mexico have been announced as targets as well. All are worker-friendly states that do not have an anti-worker, anti-union RTW law.

Just last week, city councils in two of the three targeted Washington State cities — Sequim and Shelton — unanimously rejected bills to ban union security clauses and outlaw strikes in their employees’ union contracts.

It only took a few hundred signatures to get the measures before the city councils. But the law was considered so onerous that even the lone Right Wing member of the Sequim council voted to kill the measures. During the public debate on the Sequim issues, one conservative right-wing speaker branded opponents of the anti-union measures as “communist sympathizers” and slammed “unemployment checks” as “nothing more than taking from one group and giving to another.”

Bargaining in Public

In the third city, Chelan, the local chamber of commerce is supporting an initiative petition drive. Here, under the guise of “transparency,” the proposed ordinance not only impacts city employees’ contracts, but seeks to force collective bargaining sessions to be open to the public.
City attorneys in Sequim and Shelton concluded that the effort was illegal. Additionally, the Sequim city attorney said the propositions “…attempt to do indirectly what they cannot do directly; collectively bargain through initiative. They put …taxpayers in jeopardy of paying for potential unfair labor practices.”

Reporter David Groves of the Washington State Stand said, “The city-by-city campaign against unions mirrors the new strategy of ALEC . . . to attack unions at the city and local level.”

Groves goes on to note: “The conservative Heritage Foundation just released a report urging that localities should ‘experiment’ with local right-to-work ordinances in an attempt to set up legal challenges that could go all the way to the corporate-friendly U.S. Supreme Court.”

Taking That Advice

It seems too that other Republican-controlled municipalities are already heeding the Heritage Foundation’s urging:

‘Did Away with Unions’

Fort Wayne’s anti-worker efforts have taken an even crazier approach.

In June, the city council approved a law that effectively eliminates the right of many municipal employee unions to play any role in bargaining, rendering most of the unions powerless. This did not apply to public-safety workers, however, who became the subject of a different law, passed in July, that imposes a more straightforward right-to-work ordinance on police and firefighters.

“Now, we don’t even have a seat at the table,” says Lloyd Osborne, business representative of the Operating Engineers Local 399 that represents street maintenance and water utility workers. “We can’t go on (workplace) property to represent or even speak to our members—or who used to be our members. They completely did away with the unions here under a local ordinance.”

No Legal Precedent

“Legal costs for the cities targeted by the Freedom Founding are already beginning to mount and could go much higher,” Groves notes

In an article in the Washington Examiner, ACCE director Jon Russell, while conceding there is little legal evidence supporting the group’s argument that cities and counties can pass such laws, notes that there is virtually no case law on the subject.

Thus ALEC’s/ACCE’s “get it up to the U.S. Supreme Court” strategy begins to take shape.

Diminish Local Governments

The Washington State Labor Council reports:
“At ALEC’s 2014 spring meeting, Utah Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Salt Lake City) called for diminishing local control of politics. He said, ‘School boards and city councils take away liberties quicker than the federal government. Local governing entities can be a roadblock to the ALEC agenda, so their power needs to be preempted and removed.’”

The Council notes the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia, WA-based conservative organization with close ties to ALEC, “uses words like ‘transparency’ and ‘choice,’ but they hide the fact that they are funded by out of state billionaires and their agenda is straight out of the corporate playbook. They could not pass these ideas on a statewide level, so they are trying to destroy workers’ rights on a city-by-city level.”

It’s What We Do

The 2012 Multimedia Award winner was the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) for their It’s What We Do campaign.

NYSUT is one of the largest, most influential labor unions in the nation. And that’s too often the only way it’s perceived by the public. But what NYSUT really is, is 600,000-plus individuals who – every day – practice their professions at the highest level of proficiency and commitment. Their work, in education, health care, and other public service, improves the lives of children and families; it strengthens our communities.

It’s What We Do is a place for these dedicated professionals to share with the public their stories – in words, pictures, videos and blogs – so that there’s a deeper understanding of how what happens in classrooms, on college campuses, in hospitals and on other worksites enhances the quality of life in New York state.

Its What We Do


Bryan Thomas, online communications coordinator with New York State United Teachers, explained, “The general idea is to incorporate union stories into everyday social media; to share and spread such stories,” which counter right-wing messages that are spread in much the same way. “People are more likely to share news from online sources,” he said. In fact, he noted, online is now the Number 3 news source in the U.S.

“There’s also less room for more in-depth, personal reports in the major news publications,” said Thomas. “So social media – particularly microsites (basically stand-alone sub-sections of larger sites) – are a great way to explore the workers that go unnoticed far too often.”

See more of NYSUT’s It’s What We Do site.