When some workers think of participating in their union’s activities, they often think of strikes, rallies and other kinds of public demonstrations as the extent of participation.
Public demonstrations are just one form of participation. They’re infrequent and as strikes go – pretty rare. But, because public demonstrations usually have visibility in the streets and in the media, some people assume that’s all unions do.
The reality is union participation happens mostly in the workplace, in our communities, at the union hall and online, and includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Informing and educating yourself and your co-workers on the issues that affect us, our communities, and the people we serve
- Taking a leadership role in the union (becoming a steward, sitting on a labor management committee, etc.)
- Organizing your co-workers
- Taking action and mobilizing your co-workers to action
- Voting in union elections and elections where we’ve endorsed a candidate
In other words, participation is all the things we do—big and small, individually and collectively—that contribute to building our union’s power.
And why is participation so important to union strength? Because it is directly tied to our ability to negotiate good contracts, to defend what we currently have in our contracts, to influence the outcome of legislative bills that help us, to elect allies on school boards and other offices, and much more.
It isn’t enough to just be a member. It’s not even enough to just pay dues. Our union gives us a powerful platform to improve our livelihoods and improve education, but we’ll only achieve these things if we step-up and use it.