Keep Talking

I hope your school year is off to a good start. Mine is, even though I have been insanely busy. I have new teaching assignment, with a new group of students, in a new classroom, surrounded by new colleagues and new administrators. New is good, but it is also, well, new.

At times like these, I find it helpful to talk to colleagues. Sometimes they have already gone through what I am experiencing for the first time. Mostly, it is helpful to talk through an issue with someone I know is listening.

In our union, too, September is a time for talking. It is the month, more than all the others, when the locals in WEAC Region 6 put on back-to-school union membership organizing drives. In Beloit, where I teach early childhood special education, the Beloit Education Association has held meetings with newly hired staff and returning members. We have followed up those meetings with building-level meetings and one-on-one conversations between members and potential members.

Generally speaking, people won’t join the union if they are not asked to join. Just as students don’t know if they are following the rules if we don’t tell them what the rules are, union members will not continue to belong to an organization if no one tells them what it does and how successful it is.

I talk about membership all the time, but I talk about it even more in September. I tell people about what BEA and WEAC Region 6 are doing to build on BEA’s successful school board election organizing work. We talk about how we work with the school board throughout the year, and how we help teachers take control of their jobs and their careers.

When I explain what the union does to potential members, listen to their feedback, and answer their questions, I feel like I am helping them as individuals and helping all of their colleagues at the same time. The union gives professional educators benefits and advantages they can get nowhere else. And the more members the union has the more effective it can be. I tell them that when they join they will have many opportunities to work with the union to develop professionally, become more active in their community, make new friends, and have new experiences, including:

  • National Board of Professional Teaching Standards workshops and planning
  • Effective Educator, Professional Development Plan and mentoring assistance
  • Grant writing training and opportunities
  • Social and community events
  • Social justice action
  • New teacher meetings
  • Personal finance and student loan forgiveness workshops

I also tell them they don’t just have to take my word for it. In 2015, Capital Times columnist Dave Zweifel wrote an entire column about Region 6. You can also refer potential members to two episodes of “For the Record” featuring WEAC Region 6 leaders on WISC-TV, one from 2015 and another from this spring. There is a wealth of information about member benefits and union activities on the WEAC.org web site, including an inspirational back-to-school video message from WEAC President Ron Martin.

Now is the time to get more involved in recruiting new members for your local. We have the I’m In! Membership Recruitment Project in place to reward members like you who sign up new members to the union. The project pays you $50 for every new member you sign up. It is an acknowledgement that membership sign up does not happen by accident. It happens when union members talk about the union.

Please do not hesitate to email me at kirahzeilinger@gmail.com, or call the Region 6 office at 1-800-397-2287, with questions, concerns and suggestions. If you are ready to get more involved in your local union’s recruiting efforts, talk to your building representative or local union leaders, or contact the Region 6 office. It’s September, and we are ready to talk.

In Solidarity,
Kirah Zeilinger
President of WEAC Region 6