November 26, 2020

Using Union Plus Benefits, Chapter Chair Becomes a Purchasing Agent of Change

During her first 3 years on the new job in Lynn, MA, Denise Clark focused exclusively on her work as a purchasing agent for the Lynn Community Health Center, always trying to get the things the clinic needed at the best possible price.

She still performs that role quite well, but she’s become much more interested in helping the members of her 1199/SEIU chapter utilize their collective buying power through Union Plus – and at the same time building the power of the union.

“I had no previous union experience and was really grateful when I started working here under a union contract that provided protection, stability and wage increases,” says Clark. “But I did not start getting involved until contract negotiations last year.”

She “stepped up” to become a steward, and before she knew it, she became acting chair of her chapter. At about the same time she “sat down at my computer and discovered a world of benefits” she had known nothing about.

It was the world of Union Plus, and she began bringing other members into that world.

She started going to each of the 17 sites where the clinic operates, training one or two people on how to use the Union Plus Web site to locate and use the entire range of benefits and discount programs. They, in turn, would introduce the other union members to Union Plus.

Aided by the availability of union bulletin boards at most clinic sites, she put up displays and kept them stocked “with every Union Plus brochure I could get.”

The “train the trainer” approach – combined with the steady and visible promotion of benefits – created widespread knowledge of and interest in the various programs. “This has helped members feel much better about the union,” she adds.

“Just the other day, a member called me about the great deal she got on computers for her sons, and recently I’ve felt like a Union Plus travel agent, telling everyone about the various vacation-related savings on things like condo rentals and amusement park tickets.”

Clark points out that as members learn about the Union Plus benefits, many have become more interested in learning about their rights on the job and in getting involved in the union.

“Before this organizing started we had only two stewards. Now we have 12 and I believe that our promotion of Union Plus had much to do with it.,” she says proudly. “Our union is stronger today: by organizing around the available buying power we have through Union Plus, we’ve helped increase our union power too.”