• More Than 3,000 Federal and D.C. Government Workers Joined Our AFGE Family in April!
    May 10, 2021
    Categories: The Insider, Organizing
    More and more government workers are joining AFGE!

    Our union just wrapped up our best month of organizing adds since March 2020 with 3,031 new members in April. Congratulations to all on this huge milestone! Our NOW organizing targets are not only achievable, we could very well hit those objectives ahead of schedule if we keep our focus and momentum.

    ‘Organizing is a way of life’

    Local 2054 was one of the locals that gained new members in April.

    For the local that represents Veterans Affairs employees in Little Rock, Ark., organizing is the focus of everything they do. For the last two weeks in April, Local 2054 gained 30 new members at two New Employee Orientation (NEOs) – a big feat considering how the local had been shut out of NEOs during the Trump administration and was fighting just to stay afloat.

    NEOs have always been their lifeline. To offset attrition, like retirement, the local has been using the NEOs to introduce new hires to AFGE. Union reps tell new employees about the benefits of joining the union over sandwiches and pizzas provided by the local.

    “NEOs are like our stabilizer,” said Local 2054 President Barbara Whitson-Casanova. “When we lose people through attrition, we pick it back up in NEOs.”

    To illustrate the point, the local lost about 100-150 members over the last three years due to attrition, but it brought in 50 new members just during the last three NEOs. At the first NEO they were allowed into, they got 19 new members out of 20 attenders.

    Local 2054 is one of the largest locals in the VA. It has about 1,900 members out of the bargaining unit of 2,500. Considering the hostile environment they were in during the Trump administration, the local didn’t lose a lot of members, and there were good reasons for it.

    “We lost very few members. If we have to sum it up: We do what we say we’re going to do and we remain visible,” Whitson-Casanova explained.

    By remaining visible, she means donating microwaves and refrigerators to be used in breakrooms with big signs that read, “Donated by AFGE Local 2054.” Or sponsoring a quarterly awards ceremony and having the VA publicly announce, “Thanks to our partner AFGE Local 2054 for providing the pizza.” Or giving $250 to a group of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to build a garden for veterans to work with and learn about flowers and having a sign at the garden that reads “Flowers donated by AFGE Local 2054.”

    “Organizing is not a separate activity. Everything we do, we think about organizing,” she reiterated. “Organizing is a way of life.”

    The local has an immediate goal of getting back to 2,000 members. It also wants to reach 2,500 over the next three years.

    “It’s a very aggressive goal, but I think we can do it,” she concluded.

    Bill Barry
  • Counter their lack of accurate information.

    Them: I don’t need to join the Union. You have to represent me anyway.
    Me: To a point, yes in the Federal service we do have to represent you where we are the exclusive representative. But guess what? We are not the exclusive rep for discrimination, workers’ compensation, suspensions over 15 days, or removals. We are not required to represent you because you can go to EEO, Dept of Labor, or the MSPB.

    Them: I don’t need the Union. I have a great boss.
    Me: This isn’t about your boss. Over 90% of Employees will never have a grievance. But your boss has a boss, and they have a boss, all the way up to Congress. The Union represents you not only through addressing disputes in the workplace and negotiating a contract with your employer, but through things like legislative action. There is strength in numbers and your own strength is not going to sway lawmakers. And besides – Maybe this isn’t about whether you need the Union. Maybe it’s about the Union needing YOU, in order to be stronger on behalf of yourself and all other Federal employees.

    Robin Johnson

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