Your Members do!
Members who know what’s going on – where they fit in and what they can do – are likely to be more active, and more committed. That kind of membership is what every union needs. So, if the union is going to function effectively, all members need to be informed.
In fact, making sure that members know about the union’s programs, achievements, goals, and people is one of the most important jobs of every local union leader.
No matter how good, everything can be improved. Maintaining a publication does not mean that local officers have not been doing their job of communication – it does mean the job will be made easier and more efficient.
For instance, one place a member learns about the union is at the regular membership meeting. But, it’s a fact of life – not all members can go to regular meetings every time. Some who might be interested or can’t attend at all.
In some places, unfortunately not many do. There are schedule conflicts, family obligations, distances to travel. Sometimes people just don’t know when or where meetings are being held. Others, not knowing much about the union, feel excluded.
Whatever the reason, many of those members who don’t make it to the meetings are (or could be) interested. They want to know what the union is doing. It is their right to know.
How are members learning about their union? Some locals post the minutes of the meeting on a bulletin board, along with countless other announcements and notices. How many people read them?
Of course, there is always word of mouth. However, the story can change from one person to the next. Most often it does. Details get lost; facts become confused.
There is the national union publication that each member receives. But, its focus necessarily is different from what your local might have; after all, that publication is designed to inform all members of the union. Events of concern to all appear in those pages – but day-to-day issues of your local union cannot.
This means that the local union paper is the most important vehicle for communicating the union’s message to members.
It’s the local publication that fills the communications gap. Here’s what a newsletter can and will do:
Makes union news easily accessible – only the effort of reading it is necessary.
Informs – it tells members what the local has done to protect them, what the officers who represent them are doing, what activities are being planned and what members are interested in.
Sets the record straight – written by and about union members, its points of view is that of the members themselves. It directly answers the question, “How does this event affect me?” It can address rumors started by management to divide members by presenting the workers’ (and the union’s) side of the story.
Promotes identification with the union – it draws people together, reinforcing each member’s feeling of belonging. The paper can help to define the local union as an ongoing presence in members’ minds.
Educates – what better way to explain how the union represents the membership on the workroom floor. Using real situations, it teaches in a way that a dictionary or academic textbook cannot.
Motivates – when people know something about an organization like the local union, when they know more about other members and officers, they are more likely to want to participate. Knowing about an issue or an event is the first step towards saying, “I want to be part of this.”
Involves – everyone has some talent. Members are all creative and knowledgable in their own individual ways. Most people, given the opportunity, like to share what they know with others. The union publication tells people about those opportunities.
Gives recognition – it reinforces that motivation to join in by letting other members know about what you, or he, or she, did for the local. And it’s hard to resist seeing your own name in print.
Reaches beyond the local union membership – while it’s building union pride, that newsletter can be reinforcing the benefits of belonging to current members and serves as an organizing tool for nonmembers.
Your local’s goal should be to establish open, direct communication with all of the members. A local union paper is a valuable key to that communication.