Two days before Thanksgiving, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) released the results of the annual union recertification elections and told us something we already knew: Education employees in WEAC Region 6 like their union.
All but three of the Region 6 locals that participated in recertification prevailed in their elections. More than 80 percent of the staff in those locals voted in the elections and more than 98 percent-almost all of them-voted in favor of retaining their unions as their exclusive bargaining agents.
You might already know this, but the union membership percentage in most of our locals is much lower than 80 or 98 percent. That means that throughout our region hundreds of people who have not joined the union voted in favor of keeping it. They like what the union does even though they aren’t members.
I frequently hear fellow union members say that their non-member colleagues don’t belong to the union because they don’t like us and don’t support what we do. The recertification results disprove this but do not answer the crucial question of why some of us join and some of us don’t.
Colleagues of mine in the school district of Oregon give many reasons for not joining, ranging from “I can’t afford the dues” to “My spouse won’t let me.” The explanation that disturbs me the most is the one that should be easiest to address: “Nobody asked me.”
Even when the explanations sound valid they are undercut by the simple fact that most of us join anyway. It is because the dues are worth it. And if we believe in the union and appreciate what it does, we owe it to ourselves and our colleagues to invite them to join and tell them why they should. One exciting new way we can get more of our colleagues on board is to engage them in discussions that focus on issues of importance to them. The NEA’s “Ask an Educator” National Listening Tour is a successful program that will help you with these crucial membership conversations.
We can start by telling our non-member colleagues that we think the union would be even better if they were in it. Then we can hand them membership forms and help them fill them out.
If you want to be part of the membership recruitment effort in your local, contact your building representative, a member of your local’s executive committee, or the Region 6 office today. The Region 6 phone number is 1-800-397-2287. And, of course, you can always email me at Region6.firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about membership recruitment or anything else.
Let’s celebrate the certification election victories and pile up more wins by increasing our membership and giving our colleagues even more reasons to vote yes.
President of WEAC Region 6