Through AFSCME Strong, Tina Rees, a locksmith for the Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif., may have found the key to success.
In less than six months, Rees has single-handedly signed up 315 of her coworkers as members of AFSCME Local 258, Council 57. Her local is at 90 percent membership. Since participating in the AFSCME Strong training, Rees’s efforts have intensified, her motivation has increased, and her ability to have structured conversations with her coworkers on the importance of standing together has improved.
“My goal is 100 percent membership,” she says.
Rees says the AFSCME Strong training has helped her a lot.
“It’s shown me different ways to go to my coworkers and ask them questions,” she says. “Different ways of showing them the benefits of joining the union.”
To convince a non-member to join the union, Rees says the most important thing is getting to know him or her personally. She remembers meeting several of her coworkers who were adamantly opposed to joining the union until Rees got to know them better, understood their problems and how the union could help them and was able to say: “If you join the union, we can work on that issue together.”
“Don’t give up,” Rees counsels. “You’re going to hear a lot of ‘No’s,’ but you’re going to learn a lot while you’re doing it. Sometimes they’re right, our union doesn’t help us with this or that problem, but then you can tell them: ‘Come help us do that. Give us your insight of what we’re doing wrong.’ And eventually they will.”
Rees is also on her local’s executive board, as well as a member service representative, a delegate to her council and shop steward. She spends a lot of her breaks and lunches talking to her coworkers about joining the union. For her efforts she recently received the Agency Fee/Non-Member Conversion award from Council 57 at its recent leadership conference.
“It made me feel good,” she says. “It made me feel like I was doing good work and has given me more of a motivation to try to get that last 10 percent.”
They say the last 10 percent is the hardest, Rees acknowledges, but it’s not going to stop her.
“I’m going to take that last 10 percent on a case-by-case basis and work with them until they join,” she says. “I’ll just keep working no matter what.”