It has been a few years, but there are some things you don’t forget. During my first week as a teacher, I remember having a lot to worry about. Everything was new. I didn’t know if I would like teaching or be good at it. I didn’t know if the students would listen to me or ask me questions I wouldn’t know how to answer. I didn’t know where the staff lunchroom was or if I’d ever have a chance to eat there.
I don’t remember how much time I spent that first week thinking or talking about my union membership. That came later. But in Wisconsin in 2015, teachers and education employees cannot afford to wait. These conversations are urgent and we must have them immediately.
Fortunately, we are on the precipice of the one time of the year when people are actually thinking and talking about unions anyway: Labor Day weekend. Now, instead of just talking about the labor movement and unions in general, we can talk about our own union. We must maximize this opportunity.
As we speak, there are membership recruitment drives underway in all of Region 6’s locals. Our local union leaders are making sure everybody who is eligible to sign up is encouraged to join and ask questions. Many people do not know what the union does, so we are doing everything we can to help them understand how union membership maximizes their opportunities to succeed in their classrooms and their careers.
When we meet with potential members we tell them how the union is making a difference and what it can do for them. Mostly we listen to them and ask what they need. Sometimes the conversation turns to how our organization is spearheading efforts to provide student debt relief solutions to Region 6 members. We discuss how the union is helping with PDPs and Educator Effectiveness, helping locals elect better school boards and pass referendum initiatives, bargain wage agreements and represent members who need help navigating their schools’ evaluation, review and disciplinary processes. Then we remind them that unions are the only organizations that help education employees raise their voices on behalf of their professions and their students.
Most importantly, we tell everyone that their union succeeds because of the active support of members like them. We are not just asking everyone to just join and pay their dues. We are trying to build our power by getting everyone more involved in the union. When the union and the community join forces to create change that is when the union is its strongest and students are best served.
That is why talking about membership is now everyone’s responsibility. You owe it to yourself as a union member to talk about your union membership to other prospective members. Their membership makes your membership more valuable. Your reasons for continuing your membership will be their reasons for starting and continuing theirs.
For further inspiration, read the column legendary Capital Times editor Dave Zweifel wrote about Region 6 in July. You can also refer potential members to the “For the Record” show that three Region 6 members starred in on WISC-TV a couple weeks ago. The article and the show validate the work we are doing and provide more background information.
Talk to your colleagues. If they are not members of the union, tell them why you joined and offer to help them sign up. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and call the Region 6 office at 1-800-397-2287 to find out more how you can become more involved in recruiting new members for your local.
And one more thing: Happy Labor Day.
President of WEAC Region 6