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Mobilize the Workforce: How You Can Use Calling for Unions

Published: Apr 28, 2023

A Canadian union [name withheld] was pushing a contract to secure pensions, prevent outsourcing, and protect workers’ wages from inflation. They held a workshop to show the employees how to connect with their colleagues to advocate for better working conditions. This workshop was to nurture workers to sign the contract. And the union had to contact around 4000 workers to attend it. No easy feat. But calling each member made it successful!

Calling for unions works marvels often. This article covers strategies and compliance for using phone calls to make it work for you!  

Calling for unions: How can I use it?


Let’s explore why calling is an effective way for your union to communicate before we dive into how you can use it to enhance your advocacy efforts.

  • Calling allows you to connect directly with your audience, building stronger relationships and fostering a sense of community among them. 
  • With the right tools and strategies, you can make hundreds or even thousands of calls in a single day. This allows you to reach a large audience quickly and speeds up the process.
  • A well-documented personalization strategy was a crucial factor in the success of 79% of organizations that surpassed their revenue goals; calling allows for personalized communication.
  • A recent study by PwC, as reported by Multichannel, found that most respondents (74%) desired more human interaction. 64% of those surveyed felt that organizations have become disconnected from the human aspect of the experience. This shows that the personal touch of a phone call can make your audience feel valued and connected to your union, which can improve overall engagement and retention.
  • Calling helps you gather valuable feedback and insights from your members. This information can inform decision-making and strategy development, leading to better outcomes.
  • A well-known piece on communication theory, ‘Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels’, identified the critical factors in effective communication: Nonverbal cues such as body language make up 55% of communication. The tone of voice comes in at a close second, contributing to 38% of effective communication, while words account for 7%. 
  • A study has shown that communicating through phone calls creates a stronger sense of emotional connection.
  • Calling tools provide a centralized platform for calls, automated messages, and follow-up actions.  

Now, let’s look at how you can use calling.

1. Membership recruitment 

Research shows that it is essential for unions to make recruiting new members, particularly younger ones, a top priority. A large membership base allows you to negotiate better contracts, offer more comprehensive benefits, and provide a stronger voice for workers. 

Without a steady stream of new members, you risk becoming stagnant and losing your ability to advocate effectively.

Using calling for membership recruitment can lead to a higher success rate than other methods. In fact, a study found that calling is one of the top 3 channels used for lead nurturing.

How can you use calling to recruit members?

  1. Personalized outreach: Use phone calls to connect with potential members on a more individual level. Have meaningful conversations, answer their questions, and address their specific concerns.
  2. Targeted campaigns: Target specific groups or industries you want to recruit from. Identify and reach out to potential members most likely interested in your union’s goals and values. For example, if your union represents healthcare workers, run a calling campaign targeting hospitals and clinics you are considering.
  3. Follow-up calls: After attending an event or signing up to receive more information, potential members may need an extra nudge to join the union. Use calling to remind individuals about the benefits of union membership and answer any questions.

2. Organizing and mobilizing members

You need an engaged and mobilized membership to achieve your goals and fight for your rights. 

Informed members 

  • Negotiate better working conditions, 
  • Advocate for policies that benefit workers, and 
  • Successfully fight back against threats to your union’s collective bargaining rights.

How can you use calling to organize and mobilize members?

  1. Event promotion: Invite members to rallies, protests, and meetings. Phone calls can resolve doubts and allow you to share information without delays—two crucial aspects of getting someone to attend an event, which is a high-stakes ask.
  2. Volunteer recruitment: Recruit volunteers for various campaigns and events. Personally reach out to members and ask for their help to tap into their passion, commitment and build a strong network of volunteers.
  3. Issue advocacy: Mobilize members around specific issues or policies. Educate them about the problems, ask them to take action (such as calling their elected officials), and track their progress.
  4. Member engagement: Stay connected with members and provide updates on union activities.
  5. Feedback gathering: Gather feedback and input from members to make more informed decisions and better represent their interests. Survey members on particular issues to ensure
  • You are responsive to their needs and concerns, and 
  • You can more effectively advocate on their behalf.

3. Petition signatures

Petition signatures help you 

  • Gather support from members and the broader community for your causes, 
  • Advocate for your members’ rights and interests,
  • Demonstrate the strength of your movement, 
  • Ensure employers or politicians take action on issues such as fair wages, better working conditions, and improved benefits, and
  • Build solidarity and engagement within unions by allowing members to add their names and voices to a campaign.  

How can you use calling to gather petition signatures?

  1. Identify targets: Identify the people or groups who are most likely to support the petition. This can include union members, allies, and other individuals who have shown interest in the cause in the past.
  2. Create a script: Develop a script that clearly explains the purpose of the petition and how signing it will make a difference. The script should also include information about how the petition will be used and the next steps.
  3. Train callers: Ensure your callers are comfortable with the script and know how to handle any questions or objections. One way to help your callers is by using branching scripts. Branching scripts show you certain parts of the script based on the response you choose. For example, it will show a part of the script if you click on option 1 and another if you select 2. The option your caller clicks on depends on your callee’s response. This reduces the need for manual scrolling and makes it easier for your caller. 
  4. Follow up: After the initial call, follow up with individuals who have expressed interest in signing the petition but have not yet done so.

4. Lobbying

In 2020, lobbying expenses came close to $3.5 billion, as stated by OpenSecrets after reviewing the filings

You need lobbying to advocate for policies and laws that benefit your members and the broader community. Unions engage in lobbying to promote better working conditions, higher wages, safer workplaces, and other issues related to members’ well-being.

Building relationships with policymakers and promoting your priorities can influence the political landscape and shape public opinion. 

Lobbying also builds coalitions with other organizations and interest groups to amplify your voice and achieve your goals more effectively.

The American Federation of Teachers used phone banking to persuade the California legislature to pass a landmark education funding bill.

How can you use calling for lobbying?

  1. Grassroots lobbying: Mobilize your members to contact their elected officials and voice their support or opposition to specific legislation or policies. This is an effective way to show lawmakers the strength and size of your membership base and persuade them to take action.
  2. Voter education and mobilization: Educate your members about upcoming elections and the candidates running for office. This is an opportunity to discuss your position on issues that are important to your members.
  3. Coalition building: Reach out to other organizations and groups that share your interests and goals. Working together amplifies your message and increases your influence on policymakers.
  4. Fundraising: Raise money to support your lobbying efforts. This can include asking members for donations, reaching out to supporters outside of the union, and soliciting grants from foundations and other organizations.

5. Event promotion

According to a survey, almost one-third of marketers consider event marketing to be the most powerful tool at their disposal.

Organizing events such as rallies, meetings, and conferences is an important part of advocacy efforts. Promoting them effectively is essential for maximum attendance and participation. 

Events provide opportunities to 

  • Raise funds, 
  • Recruit new members, 
  • Build partnerships with other organizations, 
  • Increase visibility, 
  • Mobilize members, and 
  • Spread your message to a broader audience. 

How can you use calling to promote your events?

  1. Segment the calling list based on the interests and demographics of the individuals being contacted. For instance, if you’re promoting an event about workplace safety, segment the calling list based on occupation and location. Prioritize calling members who work in high-risk industries such as construction or manufacturing and those who live in areas with higher rates of workplace accidents. 
  2. Engage with members and potential attendees beyond just promoting the event. Have conversations about the issues the event addresses to build relationships with individuals and encourage them to attend. Address any questions or concerns they may have. This can lead to increased participation and support for future events and initiatives.

6. Surveys and polling

The National Education Association (NEA) conducts annual surveys of its members to determine their opinions on various education-related issues. The survey results are then used to inform the NEA’s advocacy efforts and develop policies that better serve the needs of their members. Similarly, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union used polling to gauge public support for increasing the minimum wage, which helped them successfully lobby for minimum wage increases in several states.

Surveys and polling help you understand your members’ opinions and needs on various issues. This feedback can inform your advocacy efforts, help you make informed decisions, and ultimately strengthen your bargaining power.

How can you use calling for surveys and polling?

  1. Understand the concerns of your members and identify the issues that are most important to them. Ask follow-up questions to clarify their answers or gather additional information. This can help you prioritize your efforts and develop targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate with your members.
  2. Gauge public opinion on key issues related to your industries or the broader labor movement. Conduct regular polls to identify trends and shifts in public sentiment and adjust your messaging and strategies accordingly. This can help you identify potential allies and supporters and stay relevant in a rapidly changing political and social landscape.
  3. Mobilize members and supporters around specific issues. Use survey results to craft compelling messages and calls to action. Encourage your members to get involved in advocacy efforts, attend rallies, and contact their elected officials. This can help you build momentum and persuade decision-makers to take action on issues that are important to your members.

7. Negotiations

Studies have shown that, on average, unionized workers receive about 20% higher wages and enjoy a 28% increase in total compensation, which includes both wages and benefits.  

Negotiations are crucial for unions to protect the interests and welfare of members. They ensure workers have a voice in the workplace and earn fair compensation and benefits for their work.

How can you use calling for negotiations?

  1. Encourage members to participate in collective bargaining efforts to demonstrate the strength and solidarity of your membership base. Keep them informed and engaged, mobilizing support when needed. This can create a sense of urgency for employers to come to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith.
  2. Gather feedback and input from members on their bargaining priorities and concerns. Use this information to craft proposals that accurately reflect the needs and desires of the membership.
  3. Mobilize members for actions such as strikes or picketing. Communicate the goals and demands of the union to inspire your members to take action and show their support for their bargaining team.

Read Next: Types of Unions and The Most Popular Union Organizing Strategies

8. Member support and services

Unions are all about the collective power of members. To be successful, you must make them feel valued, heard, and empowered. This can include everything from legal representation and financial assistance to education and training programs. 

How can you use calling to support your union members?

  1. Provide information about available resources to your members and answer their questions. 
  2. Remind them of important deadlines, such as when to sign up for benefits or when to vote in union elections. 
  3. Provide information about training opportunities, job openings, or other services that may benefit members.

9. Political activism

Unions have a long history of fighting for workers’ rights, from securing the eight-hour workday to advocating for workplace safety regulations.

Clearly, unions can influence political decisions that impact working conditions, wages, benefits, and other aspects of workers’ lives. You can use your collective strength to support candidates and policies that align with your values and priorities. For example, a union representing healthcare workers may support a candidate who champions universal healthcare, and a union representing teachers may advocate for increased education funding.

How can you use calling for political activism?

  1. Use robocalls to alert members of important legislative developments and political events, such as rallies or marches, and encourage them to call their elected officials.
  2. Patch-through calls facilitate conversations between union members and elected officials. This gives members the opportunity to share their stories and explain how specific policies would impact their lives. These conversations can build relationships between union members and policymakers, ensuring the voices of working people are heard and considered when policy decisions are made.
  3. Conduct political surveys and gather data on issues that are important to union members. Use this information for lobbying and negotiations with employers.

10. Community outreach

Unions that actively engage in community outreach 

  • Have higher levels of member participation,
  • Have increased visibility in the community, and
  • Are more likely to win public support, which can translate into greater bargaining power and more favorable labor policies.

Engaging in community outreach helps you establish trust and advocate for your members and the broader community. This can result in increased membership and greater public awareness of your activities.

How can you use calling for community outreach?

  1. Educate potential members about the benefits of union membership and ask for their support on important issues. 
  2. Mobilize members and supporters for rallies, demonstrations, and other events. 
  3. Make personal connections by sharing your stories to build support for your cause and gain new members. 

For more on union organizing, read: How to Organize a Union and Other FAQs You Always Had

11. Emergency notifications

Emergency situations can arise at any time, and it’s essential to have a reliable and efficient method of communicating with your members during these critical times. You need to quickly inform your members of any potential dangers and how to respond. 

  1. Utilizing phone calls for emergency notifications ensures your members receive critical information on time, potentially saving lives and reducing the impact of a crisis.
  2. Using phone calls has been proven to be effective in a variety of real-life situations. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, the American Federation of Teachers used phone calls to notify members of school closures, evacuation routes, and available resources.

How can you use calling for emergency notifications?

  1. Communicate important information and instructions to your members in case of an urgent situation such as a strike, a natural disaster, or a sudden change in the workplace. 
  2. Inform and prepare your members to take necessary actions, such as showing up at a picket line or evacuating a building. 
  3. Gather important information from your members, such as their whereabouts and safety status during an emergency. This information can help you coordinate relief efforts and provide assistance where needed.

12. Education and training

In a recent survey, 74% of employees expressed dissatisfaction with their current job situation. 

You can also use education and training programs as a bargaining tool during contract negotiations.

How can you use calling for education and training?

  1. Provide your members with the necessary information and training they need to excel in their work. For example, help members stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in their industries. 
  2. Inform them about upcoming training sessions, workshops, or conferences.
  3. Get feedback from members on what kind of training they would like to receive and their priorities. Use this information to tailor your education and training programs to better meet the needs of your members. 
  4. Follow up with members who have participated in training sessions. This can reinforce the learning and ensure members are able to apply what they have learned.

13. General awareness

Raising awareness creates a supportive and engaged membership that can advocate for their rights. It can build relationships with others who share your values, combat negative stereotypes, and bridge the gap for non-union workers.

A recent survey found that nearly half of non-union workers would like to join a union if they got the chance. Increasing general awareness can bridge this gap and ensure more workers enjoy the benefits of union membership.

How can you use calling to increase general awareness?

  1. Inform people about important events, changes in policies, or upcoming campaigns.
  2. Let your members call their peers to inform them about an important issue or invite them to a rally or a meeting. This not only raises awareness but also helps to strengthen your network and mobilize people for collective action. 

Calling for unions: Laws 

Calling is a powerful tool for organizing and mobilizing workers, but it is important to understand the laws that govern this. Let’s discuss the key laws that apply to calling for unions.

Do Not Call Laws

The National Do Not Call Registry, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States, allows consumers to opt out of telemarketing calls from businesses. However, these laws do not apply to non-profit organizations, including unions.

Despite this exemption, it’s important to be aware of the Do Not Call laws and to respect the wishes of those who have opted out of your communications. Maintain accurate and up-to-date call lists to avoid calling individuals who have requested not to be contacted.

You must have the permission of the person you’re calling before you can talk to them. Failure to do so can result in legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits.

One of the most well-known laws regarding consent for phone calls is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This requires organizations to obtain prior express written consent before making calls for telemarketing purposes. While the TCPA does not apply to calls made for union activities, it is a good practice to obtain consent from those you are calling.

To avoid legal issues, obtain proper consent before calling individuals who are not members of the union. Ensure the consent is clear and unambiguous, whether it is express or implied. If you must do cold outreach, use the first call to collect explicit consent for future communications. Based on your conversation, you can send a follow-up text with instructions on how the worker can opt in to your communications.

Note that consent can be withdrawn at any time by the individual. This means, if someone initially gives consent to receive calls from you, but later changes their mind, you must stop contacting them—at least via automated dialers or such software. (However, it is a good practice to stop contacting them even from personal phones)

Prioritizing consent when making calls demonstrates a respect for individual autonomy and builds trust with potential members. 

Caller ID Requirements

With the advent of technology, it’s become easy to spoof phone numbers, making it difficult for consumers to identify the actual source of the call. Caller ID requirements are regulations that mandate organizations to display their name and phone number on the recipient’s caller ID screen.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that telemarketers and businesses display accurate caller ID information. The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 forbids any person from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud or cause harm. Violation can lead to fines of up to $10,000 per violation.

Implementing caller ID requirements also helps you build a positive brand image and trust with your members and supporters. 

Time Restrictions

Time restrictions are in place to protect individuals from receiving unwanted calls during inconvenient hours. These restrictions can differ from state to state and prohibit calls before or after certain times of the day. It is crucial to follow these rules to avoid any legal or ethical issues while conducting outreach and communications.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), telemarketing calls are restricted to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time. 

It’s important to respect these regulations and only call members and potential members during appropriate hours. This ensures you’re in compliance with the law and shows respect for your members’ time and privacy.

Content Restrictions

While you have the right to call and engage in conversations with potential members, you must abide by certain content restrictions to ensure compliance with the law.

These restrictions vary depending on the specific context, but they typically prohibit the use of

  • Deceptive or misleading information,
  • Inappropriate language, and
  • Tactics designed to coerce or intimidate potential members. 

Recording Calls

Recording phone calls is a common practice for many organizations, including unions. It helps in improving the quality of service and training staff. However, recording phone calls without the consent of the other party is illegal in many states. 

Most states require the consent of both parties before a call can be recorded. However, some states require only the consent of one party. It is essential to check state laws and regulations regarding call recording.

Here are the 11 states where it is illegal to record a phone call without the consent of all parties: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Violation of the law can result in hefty fines and even imprisonment. 

It is essential to inform the other party about the recording at the beginning of the call and obtain their consent. 

Ready to improve your union’s communication game?


Calling helps you engage with your members, recruit new members, and drive your efforts. Understanding the various laws and regulations around calling ensures you are using it effectively and ethically.

But calling isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Each union and campaign is unique, and it’s essential to tailor your calling strategy to fit your goals and audience. Whether you’re using calling to organize a rally or persuade lawmakers to support your cause, taking a thoughtful and strategic approach can make all the difference.

Join the revolution and start calling. Learn about our calling platform for unions.

Featured image: Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash


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