Signing Up The Non-Member

The Service Model of Unionism exists throughout our union and the other unions in the U.S. labor movement today. Among other things, this model has produced a passive union member whose role has been defined as primarily a consumer of union services.

The everyday business carried out by the relatively few activists revolves around negotiations and the grievance and arbitration process. These are the apparent means by which wages, hours, benefits, and fair treatment on the job are insured by the union activists.

The way contracts are negotiated and grievances are handled does not require communication with the members, nor does it require direct participation of the members. Thus, the union members and nonmembers become consumers of services provided by the union activists, with the difference being, of course, that the nonmember does not pay for those services.

There are several reasons members do not sign up nonmembers: first, often they don't know who is a member or nonmember; second, they don't want to confront someone who is their friend and co-worker; and third, the member may feel that the nonmember, who is getting something for nothing, is the smarter consumer.

To successfully involve our members and also sign up nonmembers, we must change the Service Model into an Organizing Model which communicates, educates, and involves the members and the nonmembers in the everyday affairs of the union.

IBEW experiences show that to successfully close the ranks, and keep them closed, the union must be viewed as the members and not a small group of activists; and the services in terms of a contract and the grievance and arbitration procedure must be viewed as those things which are won via the involvement of all the members in active struggle against the employer.

As a steward, this means you should seek ways to involve the members and nonmembers in active support of certain grievances. Once a nonmember is involved and aware of the power of collective action, he or she may then be convinced to become a member. (For an in-depth discussion of types of active support and the organizing model of grievance handling, see Section 4 of this manual.)

Probably the most important day-to-day job of the IBEW steward is to reach and maintain 100 percent membership in the union and to build pride and trust in IBEW. When every eligible worker is a member, IBEW will be a stronger, more effective union - able to solve workplace problems and negotiate better contracts.


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