Our state federation’s first MOI initiative was three years ago organized to focus on our Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union, the largest AFT Connecticut-affiliated local representing public employees. The goal was to identify new activists and leaders, engage and assess members’ commitment ahead of an expected adverse decision in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) lawsuit.
That initial effort brought union leaders and rank-and-file activists from across the state and country to Rocky Hill. There, participants received training in the fundamentals of organizing for power, including list development, worksite “mapping” and charting, conducting assessments, engaging in one-on-one conversations and overcoming objections.
The week-long effort culminated in a demonstration (pictured above) outside the state’s labor department headquarters organized on behalf of A&R members facing layoffs after their contractual job protections had expired.
for additional photos of the fall, 2015 cohort participants’ training and mobilization activities.
A new committee of local activists, “Stand Together A&R” (STA&R), emerged from and has played a vital role in engaging local members over the past three years. Working in concert with the local’s representative assembly, the body has identified and engaged new worksite leaders and helped drive their ongoing recommitment efforts.
The success of the A&R mobilization and subsequent STA&R Committee led to the spring, 2017 launch of a division-wide MOI. The focus was broadened to all our federation’s public employee affiliates, and drew participants from several locals for the intensive, five-month organizing program.
“The training was invaluable and helped us determine members’ mindset when it comes to their union,” said Janet Andrews, who was part of last year’s MOI contingent. “Those skills are even more relevant and important today. We need to ensure members understand why sticking together is critical to protecting what matters most,” added Andrews, who serves as our A&R union’s second vice president.
for a photo of Andrews and fellow 2017 cohort participants in training.
Since graduating as “certified member organizers,” activists like Andrews have supported a variety of efforts, from local collective bargaining campaigns to new worker organizing drives to public policy initiatives. They have also helped identify and recruit participants for two subsequent division-wide MOI cohorts this summer; one focused on paraprofessionals and school support personnel (PSRP) and another on healthcare affiliates.
“Among the most valuable skills I came away with was how to ‘map’ our organization’s membership,” said Daniel Flores, who earlier this summer participated in the PSRP-focused program. “It taught me where to look for our strongest supports and where to apply member activism. I came away with proven strategies for building power,” added Flores, who serves as president of our New Britain Federation of Paraprofessionals.
“It was a challenging but very rewarding experience,” said Robin Young, RN, of the healthcare union member engagement cohort. “The training we received was thorough — so much so that I was prepared for a lot more resistance from members. I was amazed at the open reception to our visits to their homes,” added Young, who serves as secretary for our Backus Federation of Nurses.
for photos of Young and fellow members earlier this month in training for the healthcare MOI.
What will distinguish the upcoming contingent is the addition of compensation for participants. Together, our national union, state federations and local affiliates seek to provide more members the financial ability to participate in a proven program for building a politician-proof labor movement.
Members interested in being part of our next MOI cohort should submit an application by September 14. The first scheduled day of training is scheduled for September 28 with a program commitment of 10 hours per week, or 40 hours per month.
Women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people and low-wage workers are strongly encouraged to apply.
The upcoming MOI will provide members the opportunity to help build better worksite, affiliate and statewide structures and organize more working people into our movement. Combined, these efforts send a powerful message to the deep-pocketed special interests trying to divide and weaken us; “the ‘U and I in Union’ will keep us strong!”