How can we build solidarity within the staff unit at Rutgers to win a positive result in our current card check campaign?

How can we build solidarity within the staff unit at Rutgers to win a positive result in our current card check campaign? Find out at Paywizard.org.

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Answer Paywizard:

Building solidarity within the labor movement as a whole is one of the most important (if not the most important) concern. Solidarity is the foundation of any organized movement but especially important to the labor movement, where much of the power that workers use to counter management’s power comes almost exclusively from workers’ ability to identify and cultivate unity, cohesion, and shared aims amongst each other.

That said, to answer your first question, one of the best ways to get your workforce to recognize the value of a union is to launch a public awareness and outreach campaign stressing the benefits of union membership and to honestly address the concerns and drawbacks that potential members may have. Keep in mind that most organizations, whether public or private, will do everything in their power to prevent a labor union from forming.

Indeed, though this is primarily motivated by concerns about increased costs, institutions and organizations also oppose unions because they lose a great deal of their muscle over their workforce, and this, quite frankly, can terrify management.

Because of this fear, institutions and organizations will pay consulting firms and other agencies to spread exaggerations and outright lies about labor unions. These organizations are VERY good at tapping employees’ fears about joining unions and will adapt their PR campaigns to the environment in which a union aims to organize. One example of an extremely successful anti-union campaign a few years ago was at Cornell University, where the United Auto Workers (UAW) tried to include graduate students.

Amazingly, even before union campaigns began, “student groups” and organizations of “concerned staff” at Cornell popped up, complete with slick “informational” websites about why unions are to be avoided at all costs. The strategy that these particular anti-union groups used was to tap into a science/humanities graduate student divide at Cornell.

At Cornell, graduate students in the sciences make significantly more than their humanities counterparts make. There were also far more graduate students in the sciences than in the humanities at the time. So, in order to divide graduate students at Cornell, thereby disrupting efforts to establish solidarity, anti-union activists spread lies such as 1) having a union as a science graduate student would decrease your stipend (which is false because stipends in the sciences come primarily from federal grants), and 2) that humanities graduate students would “leech” off of the money that science graduate students were bringing in if they were all in a union together. Needless to say, when it came to vote for the union, the majority of science graduate students voted against while the majority of humanities students voted for the union. Indeed the Cornell Daily Sun (the university’s newspaper) mentioned that a student named John Sebastian, an antiunion activist noted that “…he does not think that unionization will be passed because many science students ‘are not interested in eligibility.’”

What you should take away from all this is that, in successful organizing, you must be thoughtful and strategic in your approach while also conducting opposition research to counteract likely responses. That is, you must make sure you know what particular situation exists at Rutgers that anti-union activists will exploit to use against forming a union and also make sure that everyone who will be voting knows the benefits of being a union member while also being able to see through misinformation and disinformation.

Also, when it comes to unionizing a workforce there are several concerns and myths that must be dispelled:

                        (1) Ensure workers that voting in favor of a union will not have any negative repercussions (i.e. they will not be fired or suspended for voting for a union).

                        (2) Make sure potential members know that joining a union does NOT result in an equalization of salaries. Believe it or not, many people at Cornell thought that joining a union meant that everyone will get equal pay, regardless of position.

                        (3) Joining a union does NOT mean that workers will always (or even ever) go on strike. As you well know, the chances that a union will go on strike are extremely low. Strikes are always a last resort which usually entail severe consequences for workers. Give your members some statistics on what percent of contract negotiations actually ended up in strikes which I’m sure will convince them how unlikely going out on strike is.

Go to Washtech.org for some more myths that you should address when organizing professionals. (Provided by the Communications Workers of America)

Regarding your second question about structuring your local to meet the needs of the unit and be appropriate to an institution of higher ed, if you are successful in organizing Rutgers employees, some things that you may want to focus on are offering (if you don’t have them already) healthcare, dental, educational opportunities for employees and their dependents, scholarships and where available, flexible hours. Other than that, you’ll just have to listen carefully and learn what the members of your specific bargaining unit need and want.

I hope this information was useful to you and wish you success in your efforts.

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