At the Trane American Standard plant in Tyler, TX, members of IUE/CWA Local 86783 are not only manufacturing residential air conditioners; they’re building a stronger local by promoting Union Plus Programs.
Vince Leibowitz, the local’s lone staffer and a member for the past year, brought his skills and experience as a political organizer along with him to his new job.
“I had worked with Local 86783 previously on political campaigns,” he recalls, “and after contract negotiations last year, the elected leadership and I worked out a plan to use benefit programs to strengthen the union.”
In the past the local had promoted Union Plus Benefit Programs with positive results, but over time “it had fallen through the cracks.”
The local did some education about current Union Plus Programs for both officers and stewards, ordered all the available Union Plus literature, and also put together a program of additional discounts at local businesses.
Leibowitz notes that Union Plus has helped the local answer that perennial question that unions get from members when it’s not contract time and they’re not having a problem on the job: “What is the union doing for me?”
The campaign began last October, with the local’s 65 shop stewards personally delivering packets of information to all members. “They answered questions when they could and brought back questions to us when they didn’t know the answers,” Leibowitz explains.
The local also began promoting the benefits (with prominent banners) on its Web site, ordered free displays from Union Privilege for the union hall posted flyers there and continued to utilize stewards to provide updates and reminders. Stewards get update emails on the benefits programs and other union matters every other day.
At the beginning of this year, the local reordered and distributed literature, heavily promoted various Union Plus Programs in its quarterly newsletter and made training about Union Plus an integral part of regular training for stewards.
The emphasis on promoting benefits “has started to make a difference,” Leibowitz beams.
“Not a day goes by now without at least one member calling in or dropping by to talk about one benefit program or another. And we’re hearing from members we haven’t heard from before.”
Leibowitz notes that Union Plus has helped the local answer that perennial question that unions get from members when it’s not contract time and they’re not having a problem on the job: “what is the union doing for me?”
“Members really appreciate it that the union is trying to help them save money and make their dollars stretch further. And it doesn’t hurt that while the company offers its own benefit program for employees, the one we have is much more expansive,” Leibowitz adds.
“It’s always a good thing when members are in more contact with the union and stewards keep reporting that members are talking about things like savings hundreds of dollars on their auto insurance,” he continues.
In fact, Leibowitz has been hearing so much positive feedback from members that he’s decided to switch himself over to Union Plus Auto Insurance and to begin ordering medications for his three dogs through Union Plus Pet Savings, too.
Though it is in a right-to-work (for less) state, the local has about 90 percent of eligible workers signed up as members.
But Leibowitz thinks the local can do even better and that Union Plus can help.
“Our current plan is to begin integrating Union Plus Programs into our internal organizing and it will be part of our orientation materials for new hires,” Leibowitz explains.
“Check back with us in a year. I bet you’ll find that the percentage of eligible workers in the union has gone up.”