TRADING INFORMATION FOR MEMBERSHIP
We have noticed a couple of local union newsletters that are worth bringing to your attention. Why? Because the single most valuable thing a union can offer all its unit employees is information about what is happening in their work lives. Few members will ever need union help against a proposed disciplinary action or to get a promotion unfairly denied them. While most of the unit benefits from a newly negotiated benefit, most soon forget that the union got the benefit for them. But everyone feels better knowing what is going on behind the scenes at their workplace. Once the union establishes itself as a continuing source of timely, accurate, locally relevant news, employee support and loyalty will grow.
For example, how many employees would like to know what union leaders know now about how many furlough days are in their future, what the union is proposing at the bargaining table to deal with the problem, whether they can get short-term work outside the government to help make up for what they will lose, etc. At an even more local level, most employees would appreciate knowing what pending midterm changes management has revealed to the union, the results of management surveys, who got awards over the last year, what grievances has the union filed, what space changes are in the works, etc. The four most popular web sites in the world deliver timely news ranging from national to local (and even personal) to the reader: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Youtube. Management is notoriously tight-lipped about what it is planning; often to the point that most managers do not know what is going on at the executive levels. The union should fill that gap.
We recently came across two local unions that are doing great job marketing information as a union benefit.
Check out NTEU, Local 60 from New Jersey. Click on the Watchdog in the menu bar for copies of its monthly newsletter. Notice that it comes out month after month without fail. That kind of consistency sends the messages to employees that they can count on hearing from their union regularly and that their union leaders are reliable. Now, click on the February, 2013 edition where you will find that after an opening editorial about the national sequestration crisis, the newsletter is filled with local news, e.g., about a change in a local work process, the impact of Hurricane Sandy on its NJ members, an office safety problem in Trenton, NJ, FEAA college scholarships available to members children, and locally available benefit counseling. That is the kind of stuff that no one else delivers to employees.
The other interesting example is AFGE Local 1812 which represents employees at the tiny Broadcasting Board of Governors. It should not be surprised that in a bargaining unit of communicators, this local makes a big deal out of timely moving agency news to employees. It has posted six such stories in February alone. That is information they will not get anywhere outside their own agency community.
We wish we could tell you that both unions send their news out to members via e-mail rather than post it and hope that members find it. Obviously, bringing the news to members is far better. But we did not ask.
Too any employees wander around wondering what has the union done for them personally lately. Timely, consistent local news they can get nowhere else is a great answer to that question.