Editorial: Be the Change You Are Looking For

Have you ever heard someone say, “That’s not my job”?  Or “Let someone else worry about that”?  When it comes to our Union membership, we need to be careful with thoughts and statements like those.  Not caring or leaving something for the next person to deal with could potentially diminish the strength of our Union.  As a member of Local 1500, you should have a responsibility to make sure the right message is being passed along. 

The best way of knowing what is happening is to see it and hear it yourself.  That requires you to do something active, such as to speak with your shop steward, directly with your Union Representative or more importantly, attend a meeting.  If you want to have a stronger Union, you will need to occasionally step out of your comfort zone and do something about it.  You have always heard us say that you are your Union.  It’s made up of thousands of members, just like you.  But if very few take the initiative to be active, then most of our members are missing the message.  I know, I know, there are a hundred reasons why people do not attend Union meetings, but think about this for a moment…what if the number of people that attended our next Union meeting was the same number of people that did not attend our last one?  How many members would be in attendance?  How many members would be hearing the important news and updates directly from the leadership of Local 1500?  How many more members would be armed with first-hand knowledge that wouldn’t get (unfortunately) filtered through the grapevine?  How much stronger would our Union be if a thousand people showed up to a contract proposal meeting?  Or our General Membership meeting?  What about two thousand?  The chatter throughout your jobsites the next day would be incredible.  And would probably entice more people to be a part of it next time. 

We cannot always depend on someone else to do the work or give us information.  We need to be more proactive in using our Union membership.  Too many times I’ve heard members saying that they get their updates from this person or that one, so they don’t need to attend a meeting.  We in the executive office of the Local definitely appreciate your confidence in us, however, you should never take your Union membership for granted.  There are employers out there that will sense the complacency of their employees with regard to supporting their Union and will take steps to change that.  If your store manager walked down the aisle and heard two of you talking positively about your Union, and then heard one of you bagging for another and having a similar conversation, how long do you think it would take for your manager to speak to their counterparts and supervision about the buzz of the Union in the stores.  Your Union pride message should travel through your chain like a bad rumor, c’mon we all know how fast those travel.

Attending meetings shouldn’t be frowned upon, or looked at like a chore, or even a nuisance.  Members should look at attending meetings as a necessity, or as if partaking in their livelihoods, because you are!  After all, shouldn’t your job be one of your most important concerns?  We have been live streaming them on Facebook for years now to make attending even easier!  I am always intrigued by the thought that people pay a lot of their hard-earned money and travel long distances to attend a sporting event, something that has zero impact on their financial livelihood, yet they look at attending the General Membership Meeting as too much to do.    The very place where they can get information and ask questions about their job, their paycheck, their health benefits, their retirement…their life. 

I am very thankful that there are members that do relay what they’ve heard.  But those folks could only reach so many others and only so often.  We need to shift to having the majority of our membership involved directly.  And changing toward a stronger Union doesn’t just mean attending meetings either.  Tenured employees should be taking new employees under their wing and letting them know how things work.  When their first, or next raise kicks in, when their life insurance or dental and vision benefits kick in?  What legal services can they apply to get reimbursement for?  Who are the shop stewards in the store?  How to contact the Union for anything else they may need?  What to do if they feel they have been scheduled incorrectly or paid incorrectly?  What are the dos and don’ts of the job?  How not to get into trouble at work?  How does their retirement vehicle work and when can they apply for it?  Are you a long-term member that has worked through different acquisitions and banner changes?  Then you have a wealth of information and history you can share, that should not retire when you do. 

Of course, there may be some of you reading this that may need some of these questions answered for yourselves.  There is nothing wrong with asking.  Reach out to your steward or to your Union Representative.  If you are a member of Local 1500, we view you as our customer and your opinion matters to us about the service you are receiving.  Maybe there is some change that you would like to see?  We must all adapt to our environment so we can see better results. We can all grow with regard to helping people and that is what we are here for. 

If you each make your Union your own responsibility, there is no limit to what we can all accomplish!