Holding meetings was and always will be a essential task for a effective union organizer. For me these meetings were mandatory in order to be effective and a requirement for all the employees who wanted unions. They may not have known that the meetings were “required” initially, but learned quickly that it was easier to attend than to get a visit from my team. These meetings were my way of gathering the masses with one objection. My goal was to get them to sign a petition or check cards to organize.
The law states that 30% of the “card” or “petition” needs to be signed to unionize. As a general rule, the union requires 70%. Sometimes, I filed a petition with less than 70% just so I could obtain the excelsior list of all of the employees. Once I had the excelsior list, which contained the names and addresses of all eligible employees, I withdrew the petition. Then it was time to get down to business. My team would make home visits, make phone calls, and reach out to employees with vigor. My job was to sway personal feelings towards the “cause”.
The most important part of my meetings was the sign in sheets. Employees were required to sign in with names, addresses and telephone numbers. Sign in sheets provided me with the ultimate weapons, which was the personal information needed to stay in constant contact with the employees. If I didn’t get their signatures I needed, I knew where my car would need to be parked each night. An organizer is trained to intimidate the worker while at the same time making them believe that they are there to serve a greater purpose.
A tactic that was easy and powerful was an employee survey. Surveys are a great way to find out how employees feel about their work conditions, and surprisingly, a great way to sway employees to believe that their work conditions are unsuitable. I crafted my surveys so that in the first 13 questions, the person taking the survey would believe that they were NOT happy in their current situation. I would make them question workplace conditions, benefits, communication etc.
Question 14 was the one that solidified my goal. “Do you think the union could be helpful in your current position?” An affirmative answer, defined my next day’s initiative, phone calls and visits from my team. It was simple. I told them, “I can help you to make your next employee survey a positive one if you sign.”
The healthcare field was always an interesting animal. In the healthcare field, an organizer with a Masters Degree is able to provide continuing education courses for nurses. We used this platform to deliver union speeches as well. This was an easy way to get signatures because we were able to offer continuing education credits in return. Many times, I gathered enough names, addresses, and phone numbers to start campaigns and recruit my salts.
In one healthcare campaign, the emotions were so high about not having a pension plan; I had the organizing committee get signatures on cards by promising them a pension plan just by telling them, “Sign if you want a pension plan.” After all, who doesn’t want one? After I filed the petition for an election, we stuck to that election platform until we won the election.
Of course I couldn’t really promise them a pension plan, and they never received the plan that they thought they would. In fact the plan that they won in negotiations was somewhat of a joke. They received the plan in lieu of a higher annual wage increase throughout the duration of the contract. But, in the eyes of the employees, they were victorious. The truth is, it was the union who was victorious as we were now reaping the benefits of their union dues. As it turns out, the employees actually were receiving benefits and compensation (after union dues) that were almost identical to the way they were before the election. This is the reality of the unionized workerforce.