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Your guide on how to increase union memberships in 8 ways

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Published: Nov 12, 2021

‘How to increase union memberships?’ is a question that is gaining significant traction, especially in the aftermath of 2020. The year 2020 showcased the power of a workers’ union. Statistics across industries showed that workers who were members of unions saw lesser job loss, fewer pay cuts, and overall security in the workplace.

how-to-increase-union-membership-epi
Source:EPI

Unions are a powerful platform to harness the power of collective bargaining. Whether it is for better wages, against discrimination, or better working conditions – unions help workers improve their lives through the power of numbers. 

However, unions are still finding it challenging to engage workers and encourage them to join hands despite their benefits. Since workers’ unity is essential, we’ve listed ways in which you will know how to increase union memberships.

But first, let’s address a substantial hindrance in the way of union organizing.

Right to work laws and why they harm unions

Right-to-work laws dissuade workers from joining a union by creating an impression that these laws will completely protect workers’ interests. However, the truth is that right-to-work laws make it hard for workers to come together and leverage collective bargaining.

Labor unions in the US require workers to pay ‘fair share fees’ to become a member. This fee manages expenses incurred by the union while lobbying for workers’ rights. However, since the right to work laws mandate that unions need to represent all workers, even those who aren’t members, membership and collecting a fair share fee is difficult.

Therefore, we need to look at two aspects of a union:

  1. Union representation: Workers who do not pay a fair share fee but are still represented by the union.
  2. Union membership: Workers who are actual union members, pay a fee and actively participate in the union’s work.

To overcome the challenges of the right-to-work laws and the general membership decline that unions are witnessing, it is vital to bring practical strategies to increase union memberships.

How to increase union memberships

Labor unions today are going out of their way to implement strategies that help increase membership. The more the number of actual members, the more collective power that a union possesses. Here are ways you can increase union memberships:

Reach them while they are new

A successful way for unions today to increase their members is to reach out to new hires as soon as they join. Ideally, reaching out to new joiners during their training period increases their chances of becoming members.

To reach out to new hires, here are some steps you can take:

  • Ask existing members to welcome them onboard and speak about the union.
  • Introduce the union and its objectives to them during the orientation session.
  • Get them to commit to fair share fees before they get their paycheck – so they do not miss that amount.
  • Follow up with them in a couple of weeks if they still haven’t joined and educate them about the benefits of being a member.

Looking at new hires as soon as they become part of an organization is an effective way to increase members.

Encourage active member participation

When someone sees an organization buzzing with activity and positive action, it is likely that they are also attracted to join in. When members display solidarity, friendship, and collective efforts, it shows other workers that they are missing out. If they join the union, they too, could be a part of a larger group and find acceptance.

Here are quick tips to encourage active member participation:

  • Organize casual coffee meets with members with open conversations. They may or may not talk about the union but can deepen their bond over other topics.
  • Encourage members to meet and discuss challenges they face at the workplace.
  • Leverage festive times to celebrate together.
  • Function as an authentic democracy and make everyone’s voice heard. When people feel heard, they are more likely to participate.

Maintain good relations with non-members

If certain workers are hesitant to join the union or do not see its benefits, turning hostile towards them would be counterproductive. Instead, think of ways in which you can still maintain good relationships with them. They may not join the union today but might consider membership later on.

 Ways you can maintain good relations:

  • Approach them near the water cooler for a casual chat. Drop-in details of what the union is up to. 
  • Include non-members during celebrations so they can feel welcomed.
  • Tell them about any recent success your union might have had. It can be a small story about helping a single individual – but hey, that still counts!
  • Call them up on important occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries and wish them.

Remember, sometimes members are made instantly, but sometimes you need to work a little extra hard and be patient for workers to see how well your union is working.

Advertise the benefits of a union

You are a part of the union and promoting it actively for a reason. The reason is that you believe it works; it improves members’ lives and brings positive change in working conditions.

These are aspects of the union that you need to advertise to non-members. Here are some steps you can take to promote your union today:

  • Celebrate victories— no matter how small and make sure people see them.
  • Put up testimonials from members on your social media or website.
  • Make a video about union benefits and circulate it among workers.
  • Identify members who are great at networking and train them to reach out to non-members and share the benefits of being a part of the union.

These are just some ways in which you can advertise your union. Get creative with your team and note down more creative ways to promote your union.

Encourage leadership within the union

Unions tend to be large, and the top leadership may not necessarily be able to reach out to every single member. However, for the union to be successful, it is crucial that the voices of every member are heard – on the off chance that members who feel neglected might start leaving the union.

Focusing on member retention is as important as adding new members. To do so, you can start by identifying proactive members within your union who exert certain influence among their peers and are well respected.

Train these members to further the cause of the union and reach out to their circle, identify grievances and work with the leadership team to resolve issues.

Harness the power of technology

Today unions rely heavily on technology for making their work easier. If you haven’t already included technology in the functioning of your union, today is a great day to start. How to increase union memberships using different kinds of technology? We share ideas:

  • Social media

Social media is a great tool to reach out to potential members. You can use social media to:

  • Tag non-member workers on union posts so they receive notifications.
  • Do cursory research and understand problems faced by non-members.
  • Share event invites online.
  • Distribute posters or flyers.
  • Share important information through direct messages.
  • Post regular updates tagging relevant individuals and getting your union onto their friends’/followers’ feeds.
  • Technology for grievance reporting and registering complaints

Giving union members an opportunity to easily, anonymously, and securely register their grievances regarding work or the union itself is a great way to encourage participation. One way you can implement technology to receive grievances is by setting up a text messaging system.

Union members can privately send a message to your registered number using a code such as ‘GRIEVANCE.’ Your software will then recognize the code, share the next prompt, and members can send in their grievances via text. Here’s how you can implement it:

Choose a good texting softwareUse tools such as CallHub’s SMS opt-in software to set up these campaigns
Rent a numberRent a number to which union members can text.
Select a shortcodeSelect as many shortcodes as you want on a paid account. These are codes that your members will text you to register their grievances
Set-up autorespondersIf a member texts ‘GRIEVANCE’ to your rented number, what is the response they will receive immediately? Set up the text message that is automatically sent to them when they use a particular shortcode.
Receive messagesStart your campaign and popularize the shortcode amongst members. Start receiving responses and build a stronger union!
  • Electronic union authorization cards

A union authorization card is a mandatory requirement by the law. Under this, members need to sign an authorization card to indicate support to the union. Since it is compulsory but challenging to follow and collate, what unions can do is provide an electronic authorization alternative.

Members can give their electronic signatures for the card, so it becomes easier for the unions to collect support and consent. 

  • Leverage the power of blogs

Blogs serve as a medium for varied and timely information about the union and its activities. You can write blogs about the difficulties faced by members, how the union is working towards resolving them and how members can help.

A blog can also serve as an additional advertising mechanism to highlight the importance of taking up union memberships to non-members. Share these blogs via newsletter to increase their reach.

  • Implement electronic reminders

Electronic reminders such as text message reminders, voice call reminders, emails, and social media work great to let members know about any pending dues or upcoming events.

You can simply schedule a text message reminder for any use case or schedule an automated voice call to reach landline numbers. Within a matter of minutes, the campaign can reach hundreds of workers and encourage participation. 

  • Invest in a good communication software

The key to good union organizing is communication. With the right communication software at your disposal, you will be better able to reach out to members and non-members.

A good communication software can help you:

  • Reach out to hundreds of individuals in a matter of minutes – saving a lot of time.
  • With database management tools to better manage members.
  • With different options to reach out to members such as voice calls, text messages, and more.
  • Better prepare to leverage your communication through scripts.
  • Save the cost and time required to reach out to a large number of people.

Become a robust political force

Once non-members see the value you generate at the organization level and on a larger political scale, it makes your union look stronger.

You can participate at a political level by collecting Political Action Committee (PAC) donations. You can collect this amount to help a candidate win or lose, depending on the policies that they are proposing. If the policies benefit the union, you can direct funds to support the candidate. If they do not, you can also direct funds to their rivals.

Political representation helps unions pressure parties to propose policies that benefit workers at a large scale.

Engage with the community

Engaging with the community is essential to attract new members to unions today. You can not only reach out to workers for union-related discussions but also reach out to them as people. This makes them feel valued as individuals, not just as another vote in your bank. Share festive greetings, wish them on their special days, share information about their rights, circulate positive messages – there are many ways to go about this.

Here’s how to increase union memberships and engagement with CallHub:

These are just some ways in which you can engage with your community. You can explore different options on CallHub’s communication software to change and improve how your union interacts with members.

These pointers can help you create an excellent strategy to increase union memberships. Once your membership numbers are set, organize and leverage the power of collective bargaining to create a better working environment for all.

Conclusion

A good plan on how to increase union memberships requires the right kind of software to support it. You can read our article ​Learn Which Labor Union Software Works Best For You.

Featured Image Credit: SHVETS production

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