October and November have been busy months for union activity – all Local annual general meetings take place in these months.
Local meetings are important for a number of reasons: they are an opportunity to obtain information; they allow attendees the chance to build relationships, collaborate, and strengthen solidarity with their fellow members; and they are a venue for members to voice their opinions and provide input to their Local executive.
Attending Local meetings allows members to make sure the union information is accurate and is coming directly from the source.
When media gets involved, the reports often use multiple sources and are sensationalized to make for a more exciting story. While they may help to create awareness of an issue, the details they provide should be taken with a large grain of salt.
Locals should hold regular meetings with their members to ensure they are receiving accurate and pertinent information. In addition to keeping them in the loop, these meetings ensure members are included in the process and have a say in steps moving forward with things such as collective bargaining.
Member participation means that you have a chance to provide input for bargaining proposals, hear others’ proposals, can help determine where your Local’s money is spent, get information on workplace issues. If they are so inclined, members also have the opportunity to put their names forward for election to be on their bargaining team or to be on the Local executive.
Unions ARE the members, and in order to properly represent these interests, members need to be active, involved, and present when decisions are made to ensure the best interests of all members are represented.
While mail outs, emails, and social media are also great tools, there is nothing that can replace face to face conversations for greater understanding, collaboration, and building relationships. How many times have you misinterpreted something you have read? Or had someone else misinterpret something you have written?
For new members, it might be a bit daunting to step into a room with a number of seasoned individuals and participate fully in discussions and decisions. But new ideas and fresh eyes are vital to growth of any organization! Plus, unions offer training and education created by and for union members. In addition to sharing information about how unions work, training provides union members with the knowledge and expertise to become full participants at all levels within their union.
PSAC North and the UNW offer great introductory courses that cover how unions operate, what it means to be part of a union, and what your rights are as a member and an employee.
If you are interested in directly making a difference for your fellow members, you can sign up for shop steward training. Once the course is completed, you are eligible to be appointed as a shop steward at the Local level to provide front line support to members who need help dealing with their employer. There are other levels of Stewardship that assist with providing information, responding to questions, or posting notices on union bulletin boards.
At a much higher level, union training ties into the labour movement’s history of empowering workers. Workers have the best knowledge of their specific work environments and are well suited to identify the best ways to foster healthy, positive work environments.
By educating members about their rights and protections as employees, unions can empower workers to stand up for those rights, become activists in their workplaces, and help hold employers accountable for the commitments they’ve made to their workers.
The more people know about their union, the easier it is for them to engage in a more meaningful way, which leads to more activism and a stronger sense of unity and solidarity.
Unions take pride in the fact that their organizations are made up of members who serve members.
All unionized workers are encouraged to take advantage of membership and attend meetings, ask questions, get to know your fellow members and Local executive, become a steward, or maybe even put your name forward for a leadership role within your Local when an opportunity arises.