BINGHAMTON – Sending teams of union activists out to have one-on-one conversations with members in their homes and work sites isn’t especially unique.

That’s what we’ve been doing for more a year through our member engagement initiative.

But a recent Never Quit member engagement visit in Broome County broke the mold of previous outreach efforts, perhaps starting a new, different phase of our union’s efforts to have meaningful conversations with every member, in a way that might have a national impact.

For the first time, we conducted one of our concentrated member engagement outreach initiatives in conjunction with a leadership training workshop, and in doing so, put more boots on the ground in one day than ever before.

 

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CSEA Oswego County Local 838 Activist Joe Thompson leaves a “sorry we missed you” door hanger at the Broome County home of a union member.

 

Combining member engagement efforts with a union leadership conference was the idea of Central Region President Colleen Wheaton, who wanted to both maximize our union’s outreach and get more activists involved.

“We thought that while we were here for our conference, why not use our people who haven’t volunteered to do this before,” she said. “Maybe if they got out there, they would see how easy and fun it could be, and they’d want to do it again.”

 

Central Region President Colleen Wheaton kicks off the Broome County Member Engagement Initiative.

Central Region President Colleen Wheaton kicks off the Broome County Member Engagement Initiative.

 

Another exciting twist added to the mix was the participation of AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride, who joined our activists for the region’s recent fall conference in hitting the streets for a day visiting members at their homes.

For McBride, it was a very positive experience she would like to imitate throughout the country.

“I expected a really great operation because it’s CSEA,” she said. “I know from AFSCME Strong meetings that included CSEA staff that your outreach model is really great, so I expected it to be top-notch, kick-ass, and it was. I think this was an amazing breakthrough, not only for you folks, but I look forward to carrying this idea wherever I go in the union. It just makes so much sense, to get out on the doors and talk to members, and the best way to learn is by doing.”

McBride went house-to-house in the village of Endicott with CSEA activist John Brown, having some very meaningful conversations with union members, such as Marie Lawrence, who works at Broome County Family Court.

 

CSEA Court Employees Local 334 member Marie Lawrence welcomed AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride and Region 3rd Vice President John Brown into her Endicott home.

CSEA Court Employees Local 334 member Marie Lawrence welcomed AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride and Region 3rd Vice President John Brown into her living room.

 

Lawrence welcomed the team into her home, telling McBride and Brown she values her CSEA membership and would never think of quitting the union.

“I’m never going to quit on my union, because it’s never quit on me,” Lawrence said.

After a great conversation in her living room, she eagerly filled out one of our CSEA “Never Quit” cards.

“The vast majority of people I talked to really understood the value of their union and were clear that they needed to stick together and stay CSEA strong,” McBride said.

CSEA Director of Member Engagement Adam Acquario said that combining the union training with member outreach was a huge success.

“We’ve never had 57 teams go out the door at once,” he said.

 

CSEA Director of Member Engagement Adam Acquario, keeping track of members visited.

CSEA Director of Member Engagement Adam Acquario, keeping track of members visited.

 

With that large number of outreach teams, we were able to visit more than 1,700 homes in that one Saturday, having more than 400 conversations with members, the overwhelming majority of whom pledged never to quit on each other or our union.

“What we did today made a huge difference in what our union can do moving ahead,” Acquario said.

 

CSEA Attorney Jennifer Zegarelli, left, and Otsego County Local 839 President Tim Backus, right, talk with member Jeffry Carr at his Endicott home.

CSEA Attorney Jennifer Zegarelli, left, and Otsego County Local 839 President Tim Backus, right, talk with member Jeffry Carr on the front porch of his Endicott home.

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About Author

Mark Kotzin has been advocating on behalf of union members in CSEA's Central Region for more than 28 years, directing our Union's regional communications and public relations initiatives, helping build power on behalf of more than 45,000 active and retired union members throughout 20 counties in Central New York. Mark is a proud graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse, a 12+ gallon blood donor, and a passionate advocate for building workers' power through collective action!

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