Local Organizing – The Fund That Pays for Itself

Anna Smith

September 10, 2022

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As local and state officers bring their 2023 budgets to September and October meetings, it is important every local creates a budget for organizing.

This summer, in our Building Union Power organizing drive, we recruited 5,000 new members. But the work cannot stop there if we are going to keep strengthening as a union.

One of the things that really stood out when I looked at the numbers is the gap between locals that have invested in member organizing and those that have let it slide over the years. Many locals have membership density of more than 90 percent, but there are some that are still down at 50 percent.

Of course, it’s easier to organize members for some locals than others: geography, the history of the local and many other factors can play a role. But we can all control what we do about it. A lot of locals don’t have organizing budgets. Let’s change that.

The budget should be whatever the local can afford – whether it’s just a hundred dollars or thousands – it’s always worth making the start.

That money can be spent on loss-time, on the cost of travel to worksites or for home visits. Many locals hold breakroom informational events; having an organizing budget means that you can afford some refreshments or t-shirts.

If the local or state union doesn’t have a budget to pay for those things, then how will it fund that work?

Think of it as an investment that will pay itself back many times over the years. A dollar spent on recruiting a new member to the union might bring back many more dollars as they become contributors to the cost of bargaining our union contract, servicing, mobilizing, and maintaining a labor union.

But it is about more than making sure that everyone pays for their fair share of the union’s work. Building our membership also builds our solidarity. It means that we have all made the commitment to have each other’s backs. That commitment pays off when it’s time for us to hit the streets to defend our jobs or mobilize together to secure a good contract.

If you want advice on the budget or how to organize in your local or state organization, please feel free to reach out to me at asmith@apwu.org. I have resources that your local can use for organizing on the Organization Department section of the website apwu.org/organization.

Young Union Organizers Inspire Convention

One of the highlights of our National Biennial Convention in August was hearing from workers organizing new unions in places like Starbucks and Amazon.

I was inspired by their excitement and commitment to the cause of labor. They have risked their jobs and livelihoods to build new unions up from the workroom floor. In the case of one of the Amazon workers – Chis Smalls of the Staten Island Amazon facility that voted “yes” to form the Amazon Labor Union earlier this year – it literally cost him his job, when he was fired for his union activity.

The National Convention passed resolutions in support of this organizing at new workplaces, especially at Amazon. We should all support this new wave of union organizing. It helps those workers and, in the long-run, it helps us too. It raises wages across the board and makes bosses everywhere respect the power of the union movement.

What started as a handful of Starbucks workers in three stores in Buffalo, NY has now won unions at hundreds of stores across the country. Let’s take inspiration from that example and use it to move forward in our own organizing at the USPS. Remember that together, we are powerful!

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