By Tom Beer
What can be done to get members to volunteer? It’s a perennial question, even in a year like this when member participation in the work of the union is critical.
Sadly, some members remain idle. But the fault isn’t always the members. Leaders can fail to find creative things for members to do. The Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council (Council) is trying different ways to counter these member election blahs. Here are some of them:
We try to promote broad ownership. A member committee meets regularly, for instance, to plan our 3rd Congressional District campaign, along with other election work. The committee is a way for members to participate regularly in agenda setting.
We take action. Council President Leif Grina likes to say it is all about building power by taking action. Rallies at Congressman Erik Paulsen’s office, one to protest his harmful tax vote with its threat to funding of Medicare & Social Security, and another to protest mounting debt to families, students and retirees, are examples.
We rely on the members. Members are asked to write their stories about Social Security and Medicare and find others to do the same, or ask students to join us at a protest, or otherwise find partners in the 3rd District who can help build the campaign.
We don’t forget the basic “ask”. My first political mentor was Rick Scott, a DFL Party chair and longtime AFSCME staff. He told me two rules governed political involvement. The first is specific to the person, what personally motivates him or her. The second rule is someone “asked” them. The “ask” should relate to the individual’s motivation. It works for acquaintances, friends, and family members.
We work a schedule. The Council organizes regular phone banks and post card writing sessions, now scheduled every week, and pushes Labor 2018 door knocks. We follow the Labor 2018 claim that “issues matter.” To increase the vote for labor’s endorsed candidates, we insert retiree issues wherever possible.
We make members leaders and stars. The Council puts members forward in the work. Members are asked to make reports on election activities, frame our public image (one member is now the Face Book spokesperson for the 3rd CD campaign), and we encourage members to take a lead at actions.
In October, we hope to hold a 3rd Congressional District town meeting, with candidates invited, on retiree and student debt issues. Look at our Face Book posts on Medicare and Social Security for this and other updates at www.facebook.com/groups/MNMRRC .
And don’t miss the opportunity to ask someone to join you to get out the vote.