Interview with Dawn Stanger,Local 597, UPS, VT
Why did you get involved in solidarity work?
I realized how important it was during the UPS strike. Every time people came to the picket line with donuts and hung out and talked, I realized that there are hundreds and probably thousands of union members who have common concerns and interests who don’t know each other and never talk to each other about union issues. Eventually I got involved in a group that specifically does solidarity work, the VermontWorkersCenter.
Any success stories?
We helped a lot on an organizing campaign at Fletcher Allen hospital. Just this summer the 1,200 nurses won their first contract with some excellent language. The VermontWorkersCenter helped with community outreach and turning people out for events. Of course the most important thing was the strength of the nurses. But they got energy from our efforts. And we got people involved who can honestly feel that they were part of making a piece of labor history.
Ideas or suggestions for getting others active?
Things that quickly mobilize people are most effective and things that get people outside of their houses and out from in front of their television set. Jobs with Justice has a rapid response network (RRN) now. In the hospital campaign one nurse got fired and the RRN was on it right away and had a candlelight vigil outside the CEO’s apartment building. The nurse was back to work within two weeks. They have 1,500 names on the RRN. Not all participate, but it is a way to get the word out to them rather quickly
There is a tendency to think that just having e-mail lists and links to websites is enough. Although you’ve got to have all that it can be a little passive. One better way to go is to use pledge cards where people pledge to participate in so many actions or events a year. Then you build accountability into if you can organize a system to get back with them and remind them of their commitment.
It is also very helpful to get members to morale-boosting events, like the JwJ conferences that any union member can go to or our own TDU Convention in the IBT. This can help make sure that they “catch the bug” and get a good picture of what it is all about.