Organizing to Empower our Union
Anica Walls, SEIU Local 1000 Vice President for Organizing/Representation, has led our new steward trainings for several months. These trainings opened the doors for a massive increase in the number of trained stewards who can help provide needed structure and serve as resources to their departments and coworkers. However, we have learned that we can’t afford to rest on our laurels or slow down our organ zing efforts, and we haven’t stopped there.
The 2022 Organizing Institute, organized alongside the Los Angeles Federation of Labor (LA Fed) and with support from the AFL-CIO will focus on organizing 500-1000 new workers in the Los Angeles region as a pilot program for membership blitzes across the state. “I’m really excited for the membership blitz,” said Walls. “The rubber will really meet the road for a lot of these new member leaders. The lessons we learn here will help us as we take this program statewide, bringing this new cohort of experienced organizers to Fresno, San Diego, and other places to build membership in those areas as well.”
Since 2018, the LA Fed has operated Organizing Institutes in their region. These were intense three-day trainings followed by a week of blitzing worksites, talking with represented employees and recruiting new members into the union. These efforts have proven to be quite successful, with some locals increasing their membership by as much as 1000 members. However, this largely in-person program was shelved in 2020-2021 due to COVID-19.
This year, the LA Fed has selected SEIU Local 1000 as one of the participants of the spring 2022 cohort. As a result, the LA Fed has awarded 20 participant slots to our local, and has also committed up to $30 an hour per participant to help offset the costs of union leave. The LA Fed has also assigned 2 staff to help lift up the plan and support our recruitment efforts for the Institute. Local 1000 will select 20 members and assign 5 staff and member-leader facilitators to execute the blitz.
“While staff is involved in training roles, the blitz itself will be member led, with Local 1000 members talking to future members in Los Angeles,” said Vice President David Jimenez. “Our training focuses on face-to-face interactions, developing organizing fundamentals, getting people’s interest, and addressing issues and agitating to develop our membership.”
With a focus on Los Angeles region, where nearly 9,000 state workers are located, our membership blitz will take place from March 14th – 23rd. Our goal of achieving 1000 new member sign ups is not only an important strategic goal for Local 1000, it is essential for the future of unions across the state.
This effort comes at a critical time for state workers everywhere. To prepare to bargain for our statewide contract, our organization badly needed long-term strategies to come to the table. “We have to have high membership to have a solid footing for bargaining,” said Jimenez. “Bargaining is always our mind, and this new program is the best direction. If we achieve our goal with the LA Fed, of 500 to 1000 new members in this drive, we will replicate this drive in the coming months with a new set of member leaders to build our membership base.”
Walls also focused on the importance of building power in our membership as part of this program. “Fortunately, I think we’re focusing on what we need to be focusing on right now,” said Jimenez. “Organizing is a huge part of what makes us successful at the bargaining table. It is the number one thing that moves the needle at the table.”
The LA Fed’s training is focused on the process of organizing and developing person-to-person connections with the workers to move them into action. “Our primary goal is to plant a seed that can give us long-term successes, not just short-term gains,” said Walls.
This approach to grassroots organizing is an effective way to create a culture of organizing among members that will provide a solid foundation for future efforts. Instead of relying on top-down directives, this model can provide a basis for SEIU Local 1000 to confront the issues faced by all the workers we represent by increasing involvement and knowledge in workers across the state.
“Ultimately it’s not just SEIU that is stronger together, but unions as a whole become stronger, our labor movement becomes stronger, and every worker in this state becomes stronger,” said Walls. “We can move mountains when we’re working together.”