What kinds of actions in your union are transactional? What are transformational? What kind of value do each of those actions bring?
Questions like these — and what to do with the answers — were at the center of a three-day Internal Organizing Training held at the Labor Temple for union members from around the country.
Focused on internal organizing, the training provided information on one-on-one meetings, mapping and charting supporters, union principles and relationships, said Todd Dahlstrom, Organizing/Growth Director of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
“We’re really focused on internal organizing in light of Janus,” Dahlstrom said.
Charles Handel Lundy, internal organizing coordinator for the AFL-CIO said he hoped the training could turn into long-term results for unions. “This is training not just for right now, but all the time,” he said. “The energy is here, and the main thing is to apply it in the field.”
“Labor has been under attack on a consistent basis, and we need to organize to win,” Lundy said.
Too often, when a union goes into contract mode, it can lose some of the momentum it had when organizing around issues, he said. Relationships within the union become transactional — complacent and focused on limited resources — rather than transformational, building long-term relationships , he said. And it’s the latter that people are looking for when they organize.
“If we can bring ourselves together to see what’s possible, When we’re strong, we’ll be able to achieve more,” Lundy said. “Unions create the standards in our community and we have to get back to that.”
Christina St. Germaine, president of AFSCME 1092, attended the training as a refresher course. She said the role-playing scenarios were especially helpful. “I was able to learn from others on how to relate the values of our members to the values of our Union,” she said. “I plan on listening better and asking open ended questions when having one-on-one conversations with members.”
“They taught us to listen,” added Todd Gustafson, executive board member with UFCW 1189. “You can only truly get to the issue a member might be having by listening and then taking action from there,” he said. “Unions have always been about building membership from the ground up, trying to get as many members as you can to get involved by having those one-on-one conversations.”