In the Trenches at 521

We understand that as workers in the labor movement you truly are “in the trenches” doing the work that keeps the labor movement alive. This makes it hard to attend meetings at times when many of you are out mobilizing members or beating the street on organizing drives. Some issues we are currently facing at SEIU and what we are doing about it.

  1. Safety: Some of you have participated in the safety survey that SEIU sent out. Some preliminary results of that survey are: 80% of those responding feel safe at work, with 20% feeling unsafe at work. When encountering an unsafe situation at work only 36% felt that they would know what to do, and 63% saying they did not feel that they knew what to do. When asked if they had experienced an unsafe situation while working at SEIU 12.73% of the respondents said yes, more than once. 38% said no that they had never experienced an unsafe situation while working at SEIU. There were four (4) questions about concerns regarding safety in the field, safety in the office, what other safety concerns you have and what training you would like to receive. The data is still being processed on those questions. We applaud this initial step to improving your work place safety. Some of the issues our members have brought forward in the past include. *Door knocking or precinct walking alone. *driving in the fog (valley). * Door knocking or precinct walking in certain neighborhoods being a person of color. *How to deal with a hostile or an unstable member. * Door knocking or precinct walking at night or in the rain fog etc. So let’s address some of these issues with recommendations from your union. These recommendations are just that and meant only to be suggestions and ideas to help mitigate the dangers organizers encounter on a daily basis. First of all, any time you feel you are in an unsafe situation immediately remove yourself from that situation. This could be anything from driving in a fog bank, to knocking on the door to a house. Let’s take for example: You have a member you feel is unstable or simply hostile. Naturally people who find themselves in danger of losing their job have a higher level of “intensity”. This intensity is often the result of fear or desperation. These individuals can be intimidating to deal with; especially if their representative hasn’t “done everything possible” based on that individual’s perspective. Don’t meet this individual in the parking lot of their work site, alone.  Do meet with another organizer/rep or your supervisor in a safe location. An ideal location to meet would be a government building such as the courthouse etc. The cafeteria or any other location in the court house provides the opportunity to sit down within eyesight and earshot of security personnel. Another benefit of meeting in a location such as this is everyone coming in has to pass through a metal detector, ergo no weapons. If your member insists on meeting in a different venue, do not do so without your supervisor being made aware and being there with you or arranging for another member of management to be with you. This is not meant for your director to “assign” another organizer to meet with you and your member. This is a precaution to be taken when dealing with that hostile or unbalanced member. Another example: You are door knocking during a blitz or surge and it’s late. The address you are approaching is dark, your particular demographic is not one common to the area in which you are working. This is a perfect example of, the individual being the arbiter of his or her own safety. If you feel uneasy or unsafe then you are unsafe. Listen to your gut. During your debrief  note the reason(s) you felt unsafe and follow that up with an email restating your position (cc your union rep). This is vital work you are doing, but it is not worth dying for. Once again IF YOU FEEL UNSAFE, THEN YOU ARE UNSAFE. CWA is researching possible training on de-escalation techniques. This is being done in partnership with SEIU.

  2.  Contract expiration: Our contract expires on February 28th 2018. So bargaining surveys are going out soon. Nominations for the bargaining team will be held by the end of this month. This will most likely be done via a town hall conference call. In this way all members will have an equal opportunity to either nominate or accept nomination for a position on the bargaining team.

  3. Janus, Janus, Janus: Janus like it’s predecessor Friedrichs poses a huge threat to unions everywhere and this is especially true for SEIU. I have spoke to Riko personally on the subject of Janus and we have also addressed this subject in our labor man meetings. Riko has expressed that SEIU will not be going into crisis cuts or employee cutbacks in lieu of a full court push to organize. During the Labor Man meeting the leadership of SEIU expressed optimism and even a few clues as to what SEIU has planned to deal with the potential decision. You will have noticed different membership applications. Many unions are changing the membership application process and evaluating the best/worst case scenarios. While no one has a crystal ball….organizing has never been more important in the labor movement than now. Every one of these cases, every piece of anti-union legislation that is floated makes each successive scenario more important than ever before. This is the normal for the labor movement. Constantly under attack. These are words we have heard so often they sound cliché... The uncertainty of the political landscape, the promise of further attacks against labor, this is the currency we trade in. The CWA mantra “when we fight, we win” are words to believe in. For now that’s a wrap.

    Thank you for your support. In unity,   

     Robert Hogue

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