May 14, 2008: How can we overcome apathy, unite members, and help solve problems on the job?
That was the subject of a TDU workshop on May 4 in Minnesota.
The workshop brought together members from Locals 120, 320 and 638 to learn and share strategies for putting teeth into the grievance procedure.
“Solving a problem is about more than just filing a grievance,” said Dave Kremer, a member from Local 320 at the University of Minnesota. "Involving the members in solving workplace problems empowers the members and builds the union."
A big part of solving workplace problems is asking questions and listening to other members. Labor educator Joe Fahey shared some strategic questions to ask members:
- Who cares about the issue? Does the issue affect just one person, a specific department, or everyone in the union? Is the problem just in one facility, or company-wide? The more support you have, the better.
- Who is causing the problem? Is just one supervisor the problem? Or is higher-up management to blame?
- What is our goal? What needs to happen to fix the problem or improve the situation—and how important is this issue to management?
- What can workers do together to show their unity to management? Start small, and do something that you know everyone will participate in—like getting everyone in where you work to wear their Teamster shirt on the same day. Starting too big may leave most members behind and make you look weak.
- How will success make your union stronger?
“We looked at three cases and we brainstormed what we would do in each situation,” Kremer said. “Then we heard how the situation played out in real life. Solutions can be won when we include the membership, ask the right questions, and consider all the possibilities.”
In one case study, management told Teamsters in a cannery that they could only use the restroom on their break, or before their shift. The next morning, all the workers lined up to use the single bathroom, just minutes before their shift started. An hour later, management shelved the rule.
Interested in setting up an educational workshop in your local? Teamsters for a Democratic Union helps members set up workshops like these across the country.
The TDU Convention is the Teamster education event of the year. The convention will feature a range of workshops led by Teamster leaders and labor experts. Click here to find out more about the TDU Convention.