AFGE: HOW A UNION STRATEGICALLY COMMITS TO GROWTH

We have complimented AFGE often for its success at adding new members since 1999.  John Gage, its prior national president, and J. David Cox, its current one, have had more success this century than any other federal employee union leaders at growing their union and its top-to-bottom strength.  And they did it by involving local union leaders deeply through a bottom-up, union-wide strategic planning process that all the rest of us should take the time to understand.  We recently found a short report on how AFGE weaves planning and growth to protect specific groups of employees. Don’t get stuck on the fact AFGE provides $100 for every new member recruited and another $50 for the person who recruited the new member.  Look deeper to get the most out of it.

The following was written and distributed by Witold Skwierczynski, the longtime and highly respected president of the AFGE Social Security Council, about their efforts to stop “Vision 2025,” an agency plan to limit beneficiaries to using the MySocialSecurity website or the 1-800 phone number for service and eliminates most, if not all, community offices. It is something any union representing a politicially controversial agency with shrinking budgets should consider copying. 

On 11/21/14 the Vision 2025 GNAT Committee met by conference call.  In addition a conference call was conducted with AFGE President Cox on 11/25/14.  Participants on the Cox call were Steve Kofahl, Jill Hornick, Matt Perlinger, Dave Sheagley, Bill Lyons, J David Cox and me.  During both conference calls the issue of Vision 2025 organizing was discussed.

In order, to clarify the AFGE – Council 220 agreement regarding organizing support from AFGE, the following understandings were reached:

  • AFGE will pay $100 to each member recruited.  1187’s must be sent to the AFGE Organizing Department at the following eFax number:  866 311 9495. Do not send 1187’s to NVP offices if your Local is participating in the campaign to Stop Vision 2025.  The 1187 must show that the $100 was paid to the new member.  If Locals have policies to pay a lesser amount for new member recruits those policies are not applicable during this Council 220 recruitment drive.  The incentive, preferably in cash, is $100. Locals must take care to document all cash transactions with written receipts ( e.g. organizer receives Five $100.00 bills for use at L and L, get a receipt; organizer uses $100.00 and gives $400.00 back, provide a receipt and keep a copy).
  • Any 1187 may be used to sign new members and for the AFGE National rebate but each Local has been sent a supply of 1187’s with the Flyer titled “It’s Time to Save Our Social Security” which is the primary 1187 document to use. When you fax completed 1187’s always use a fax cover sheet labeled with your Local number, address and Vision 2025.
  • AFGE will pay up to $50 to recruiters for each member recruited.  The 1187 must show the amount paid to the recruiter.  For Example, if the Local pays the recruiter $25, AFGE will only reimburse $25.  If the Local pays the recruiter $100, AFGE will reimburse $50.  Up to $50 is what AFGE will reimburse and no more than the Local pays as documented by the 1187.
  • The recruiter information must be complete (name, SSN, etc.) for rebate to be paid to the Local. Please make sure that the completed 1187 is legible prior to eFaxing to AFGE.
  • Locals will be responsible for paying for Lunches and other Local expenses.  President Cox stated that if the Local can’t afford to pay the lunches, many NVPs or the National AFGE will be willing to pick up all or part of the cost.  He encouraged asking if there is a need issue for a Local. Be prepared to provide justification of a claimed need.
  • If a Local can’t afford to pay the up-front cost of the $100 incentives and recruiter bonuses (those reimbursable by AFGE), AFGE can advance the Local the rebate monies.  Contact Bill Lyons, Director of Membership and Organizing to request assistance.  The M and O Department number is (202) 639 6410. The Local will have to sign an agreement with some reasonable estimate of recruitment expectations.
  • AFGE requests that the 1187’s be faxed on a weekly basis to the organizing dept.  They do not want signed 1187s accumulated for months to be sent in bulk. Please make sure that each completed form is fully filled in, documented for rebate payment amounts to the new member and recruiter and that all fill-ins are legible.

In August the AFGE Council 220 Executive Board met in Chicago and agreed on a Vision 2025 organizing plan to present to AFGE.  The idea and focus is to organize around the Vision 2025 plan that was released.  This is not a dental plan push nor is it an AFGE benefits plan focus.  The reason for the organizing drive is to educate the employees on the danger of implementing Vision 2025 and what the employees must do to insure that this will not happen.  Step 1 in that employee “ask” is to join the union.

The plan is for 6 months with a possible 6 month extension based on its success in recruitment.  During the first phase of the plan, AFGE agreed to finance 70 weeks of organizing by SSA Organizing Institute graduates.  Funded OI Grads will visit 5 offices per week ( 1 each day).  5 x 70 is 350 offices.  The Council agreed to finance 30 weeks, 5 offices per week of organizing by the 8 Council 220 Board members.  That’s 150 more offices.

AFGE requested that we begin in places with large unorganized potential.  Our largest facilities are TSCs, so the EB decided to concentrate the beginning of the campaign mainly in places with large TSCs.  Since the goals are to educate and to sign up members, going to larger facilities facilitates both expectations.

Both the C-220 Organizing Committee and the GNAT will be calling individual Local presidents top schedule organizing activities in the Locals.  Dan Duggins has done mapping of every organized office in C-220.  Some of the results may be incorrect but the mapping gives us a good idea of where the weaknesses exist in membership.   Those are the places that this campaign must concentrate on in the beginning.

This is a cooperative effort.  We want to discuss your plans with you and assign an OI grad or C-220 EB member that fits your needs and will result in a successful campaign.  Virtually all Local President signed a pledge to support the Vision 2025 union campaign.  Organizing is part of that campaign and part of your pledge.  We can only win if we meet with employees face-to face in the offices and convince them that they need to take action to save their jobs and save customer service in SSA.  The goal is to visit 1000 offices in a year and the rest after that.

The organizing must be coordinated.  We need to know centrally what organizers are visiting which offices and when.  My expectation is that we start visits in December and plan most of our events through March 31 in the next couple of weeks.  Don’t be disappointed if all of your offices aren’t part of the first phase.  We intend to visit all SSA field offices.

I’ve asked EB members to provide their schedules of open weeks to Steve Kofahl so their organizing can be coordinated.  OI grads that will be participating must have their security questionnaires completed and must be approved by AFGE before they can be released.  This is being done now.

Let’s work together to make this a successful campaign.  Let’s defeat Vision 2025 and make SSA a better customer based, community based Agency.

Witold Skwierczynski, President, AFGE Council 220

 

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FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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