CONGRATS TO AFGE FOR MEMBERSHIP GROWTH
According to the Dept. of Labor AFGE has increased the number of employees paying dues every year since 2000 when 197,000 federal employees were members. Today, DOL reports AFGE has over 301,000 dues paying members, an increase of over 50%. By comparison, none of the other federal sector unions came even close to that streak of consecutive growth years nor to the 50% increase in members during that time.
AFGE deserves great credit for these accomplishments. If there is a single measure of a union’s the health it is membership. Employees pay dues because they think the union is worth it. High membership confirms the union is doing something right, and low membership is about as clear a signal a union can get that whatever it is doing is not perceived as valuable by employees.
Although a big part of AFGE’s membership growth is due to local stewards and officers demonstrating their value, explaining the benefits of membership, and repeatedly asking employees to join, the union’s national office gets a substantial chunk of the credit too. It offered $100 incentives for every new member, held national training programs just for local membership coordinators, assembled an attractive package of fringe benefits for members, such as a dental insurance program, instituted a strategic planning process driven by the input of local leaders, and, according to rumors on the street, it measured and held accountable its paid staff for doing all the things that generate new members.
AFGE has much more to do before it can declare absolute victory. Even with 300,000 members less than 50% of the employees it claims to represent pay dues. Other unions, such as NATCA and NTEU, appear to have a higher percentage of unit employees paying dues. But what AFGE has accomplished is better than the alternative and it has made all federal employee unions stronger. Congrats!