We learned two things last November: first, while a number of dedicated volunteers and union staff worked their butts off for the Worker Voice effort, we didn’t have enough member volunteers to get our effort to the level we needed to win the Governor or narrow the gap in the state legislature; and second, because most if not all Michigan unions are going to see their contracts expire before we get out from under “Right to Work” legislation, the threat of declining membership and falling dues revenues is real.
Both of these challenges can be overcome, and both have the same solution: organizing many more member volunteers / activists. With a team of such activists in each of our locals, we can have one-on-one organizing conversations with others our bargaining units on a scale that we can never achieve if we rely on staff alone. Member-to-member organizing conversations are the way we persuade members who may be wavering about whether to stay in the union when RTW comes; they are also the way we get members who share our values but have been standing on the sidelines to get active. Organizing conversations are labor intensive – we need a lot of person-power to do them – but there is no substitute and no alternative if we are going to rebuild the power of our labor movement in this county.
Our Feb 7th workshop will be the first of a series of HVCLC workshops designed to achieve this purpose. The people thus recruited are encouraged to attend our next workshop (held about 2 months later); they then go out and recruit as well. Member activists who came to the first workshop will also be encouraged to come to the subsequent ones – they already have the initial member organizing training – but we can do follow-up / more advanced skill development with them. We will also encourage everyone to come and participate in the March Planning Retreat.
Our Workshop planning group – Ian Robinson, David Reynolds, Steve Gulick, Grace Trudell, Tad Wysor, Sheila Pedersen, John Ware, Kelly Anthony and Ron Motsinger – has produced the Workshop Agenda.
What we need beyond a good design and workshop facilitators is a lot of participants! I’m asking leaders and activists in all of our affiliates to identify at least two of your members or leaders who you think are interested in organizing work or that you’d like to move in that direction.
As painful as it was, November highlighted areas where we need to and can strengthen our labor-based progressive movement. It’s not all about Lansing. We can do a lot right here on our home turf, where we are considerably stronger than we are in Lansing. I’m excited about the new potential for a united local labor movement, with new allies and creative initiatives, to quickly begin turning the tide. I’m looking forward to working with you and your local as we take these movement-building steps together. Please let us in the HVCLC leadership know how we can help.