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PEP Dec 2006
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Public Employee Press

The organizing challenge

AFSCME trains organizers to recruit nearly 80,000 in 2007


The participants in a two-day conference on organizing at DC 37 came from eight affiliates of the national union in the tri-state area and Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

DC 37 hosted a two-day conference on organizing for the Eastern U.S. affiliates of its national union, which seeks to expand the number of members by 5 percent every year.

About 20 DC 37 staffers and some 30 unionists from seven other affiliates participated in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ organizing training Nov. 8 and 9.

The training was part of a series of sessions AFSCME is conducting around the country as it carries out its ambitious 21st Century Initiative. Councils would organize at a rate of 3 percent a year while in its campaigns, the national union would increase the new members it organizes by 2 percent.

Delegates at the national union’s Chicago convention in August adopted the plan, which, in addition to boosting AFSCME’s 1.4 million membership by 5 percent a year, calls for creating a nationwide network of 40,000 volunteer activists to help with organizing drives and political work. In 2007,AFSCME aims to organize 77,000 new members.

“We have to remember that this is about building a labor movement,” said Connie Derr, who heads the AFSCME Eastern Region headquarters in Long Island City in Queens, as she discussed the national union’s organizing model.


Connie Derr, who heads the Eastern Region headquarters of District Council 37’s national union, talks about oganizing strategies and goals.

The model provides a blueprint for recruiting new members through identifying employers and building one-on-one relationships with workers. In great detail, the model explains the nuts and bolts of preparing for and carrying out organizing campaigns that culminate with an election overseen by a public sector labor board or the National Labor Relations Board.

An alternative path is a recognition, or card-check, campaign in which the employer agrees to recognize the union if a majority of its workers sign up. Typically, professional union organizers and volunteers work with leaders of the work force at targeted employers to establish an organizing committee.

At the conference, Paul Frank, the regional organizing supervisor for New York City and Long Island of the Civil Service Employees Association, described a recent successful card-check campaign to organize 1,200 employees who work for a non-profit company that serves mentally and developmentally disabled clients at 58 sites throughout the city.

“Your work is especially important now when our pensions are under attack and unions face fierce opposition from employers and their political supporters,” said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, who greeted the conference participants. “You have a tough job. But I know you’re up to it,” said Roberts, who cut her teeth as an activist during the upsurge of public sector unionism in the 1960s.

 

 

 

 
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