Local 21 EXPRESS

October 26, 2015

Every Member Counts: Focus on Growing the Union

At the October Delegate Assembly, Local 21 members and staff alike were reminded that Every Member Counts.

On Oct. 17, over 100 member delegates convened at the Marriott Hotel’s Convention Center in downtown Oakland to discuss recruitment strategies, tech diversity, Union finances, and to graduate the first class of Member Activists (MAs) from the pilot steward training program.

At the assembly, Alex Tonisson, L21 Director of Field Services spurred delegates to contemplate Building Our Membership by encouraging them to discuss ways to start the conversation at their workplaces on the benefits of unions.
However, Tonisson’s presentation reminded the assembly that we still have a long way to go.
While the private sector is enjoying renewed job growth – albeit unevenly across socio-economic segments of the population --  IT workers, auditors, analysts, engineers and software developers in city and county departments have taken a hit from the recession that we have not yet recovered from, where job loss continues to be a problem. While the private sector has added more than 3.5 million jobs, the public sector has lost 750,000 jobs since the economic downturn.
“Most of you are doing more with less staff,” Tonisson told the members in attendance at the assembly.
The reason for this, he added, is a political backlash against public sector unions.
Public employees have taken the brunt of scapegoating from the Far Right, particularly blaming unions for government deficits and inefficiency in states across the country. Moreover, “Right to Work” legislation across the country could further serve as a barrier to organizing workers and union representation in the public sector. California could soon follow the trend of already half the states in the union who have  succumbed to local anti-union legislation.
On that note, Tonisson reiterated the importance more than ever of strengthening public employees’ economic future and political voice, and to do that, we need numbers.
“High membership is very important to any healthy union,” Tonisson said. “More members means the employer sees the union has the support of the employees. It also means that the union is more democratic, addressing the issues most important to the membership as a whole. A stronger union has more resources to bargain, do research, have input in politics, policy and legislation and individual member representation.”
Following Tonisson’s presentation, the delegates moved into several breakout groups to focus on questions like: “What common issues are important to co-workers?” and “How do we help co-workers see the connection between those issues and being members of a strong union?”
Afterwards, the delegates reconvened in the conference room. Some went up to the mic to summarize the conclusions they reached during the breakout sessions. Their answers to the breakout questions were based on concerns they have heard from coworkers. Along these lines, members offered suggestions as to what the Union can do to address these concerns, ranging from healthcare, pay, benefits, to tough supervisors. Delegates also exchanged ideas on how to start conversations at their workplaces with non-organized colleagues about how joining the Union can benefit them.
“Obviously, this organizing strategy is easiest with people you know” said one member, David Herring, who serves L21 as VP for Membership & Organization and attended the Delegate Assembly. For L21 specifically, Herring reiterated that this effort to raise our living standards in the Bay Area rests on the importance of “getting a lot of members involved.”


Member Activist Graduation

One of the highlights at the Delegate Assembly was the graduation of a new generation of Member Activists, or MAs, from the first level of the pilot Local 21 Steward Training Program.
“We are committed to developing a unique and innovative program that will help build a strong organization of well-trained activists and stewards in each of our chapters throughout Local 21,” said L21 Executive Director Bob Muscat, congratulating the graduates as they came to the podium one-by-one to receive their Member Activist pins.
Following Muscat’s opening remarks, 28 graduates were recognized. After all names were called, the group received a standing ovation from the over 100 delegates in attendance.
The new MAs have all completed the first phase of the three-level training process. When MAs complete the second level, they will be Stewards, and after completing the third level, they will officially be recognized as Senior Stewards. In the meantime, it is important to note that MAs cannot yet file grievances. Only Stewards possess the authority and training to do so.  
L21 has taken the time to carefully develop these programs. Less about immediate results, the Steward Training Program is more about developing sustainable, long-term leadership for today and tomorrow’s Union. Stay tuned as we gear up for the second and third levels of this important L21 initiative. 


Derecka Mehrens Speaks at the October Delegate Assembly

Delegates to the October assembly held at the Oakland Marriott Hotel last week had a chance to hear Derecka Mehrens give a presentation on “Is the Tech-Driven Economy Squeezing the Middle Class?”

During her presentation, Mehrens addressed the disparity between the industry’s record-breaking profits and market dividends versus the increasing income disparity between high-paying and low-paying jobs in the increasingly expensive Bay Area. She presented a “A Tale of Two Valleys” by illustrating how the bulk of tech jobs either lie on the low end of the wage scale, ($8-$18 per hour) or on the high end ($30 an hour and up) but nothing in between.
While this reality may seem daunting, Mehrens stressed the need to “Build an Inclusive Economy” to help remedy the new economy’s socio-economic disparity.  Mehrens  spoke about   “raising the floor” as a way to preserve and uplifting the middle class the Bay Area.   

As Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA, a community-labor organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of inequality for workers and communities of color in today's economy, Mehrens was instrumental in helping San Jose families in 2012 when voters raised the City's minimum wage -- well before the Fight for Fifteen campaign for a $15 minimum wage gained national steam.

Member Activist Summit

In late September, 20 trainees in Local 21’s Steward Training Program attended the Member Activist (MA) Summit at the Local 21 office in Oakland. MAs got a chance to meet fellow soon-to-be graduates from the first level of the program from across jurisdictions to exchange ideas and experiences as MAs-in-training.

Participants of the summit discussed what it means to be a Member Activist at the workplace. The general consensus was that it means putting a face to the Union, listening to their coworkers and assessing workplace issues that come up in terms of what the Union can do for fellow L21 members.

New Appointees to the Executive Council

The Delegate Assembly approved two appointments to the Executive Committee.
Sue Guest was appointed to L21 Executive Vice President. She has served as Contra Costa County Chapter President  since 2010 and Executive Vice President for the East Bay. Prior to being the EBVP, she was the Vice President At Large for the Local.  She also participated on the Election Committee and is currently on the San Francisco Building Committee.     
Cheryl Penick was appointed to L21 East Bay Vice President. She has served as Local 21 City of Hayward Chapter President and as Steward in 2010 and sat on the Contract Bargaining Team. She has worked as a librarian for 28 years, and has been employed at the Hayward Public Library since 2007.  Penick possesses a  Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing/Entrepreneurship from Baylor University and a Master of Library Science from University of Southern Mississippi.


Union Night at the Barracuda Game

Nearly sixty Local 21 Members and their families participated in Union Night at the San Jose Barracuda Game on October 9.  The inaugural home opener for the San Jose Sharks' minor league hockey team hosted members from several Bay Area unions and Labor Leaders, as well as the offices of San Jose City Councilmembers Don Rocha and Ash Kalra.  It was a blast spending time with members from Local 21's seven South Bay chapters.  Local 21 hopes to host more bonding activities for our Members soon.  See more photos on Flickr.

Here They Go Again: Statewide Measures by Reed

Yes, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is at it again.
He has filed two new statewide pension ballot measures, both of which are bad news for public employees. He hopes to put one of them on the ballot for November 2016.
This summer he proposed a statewide constitutional amendment that would prohibit retirement benefits for new public employees and potentially require our wages, retirement, and benefits to end up on the ballot.
A few weeks ago Reed said he was holding off proposing measures until 2018, but apparently, he couldn’t wait until then. He filed one measure to eliminate definied benefit retirement for many public employees and the second one to cut employer contributions and raise employee contributions to retirement plans including Social Security and Medicare. 
We are monitoring the situation closely. Our statewide coalition, Californians for Retirement Security, is doing an analysis of the measures. Should one of them move forward, we will need to gear up for the fight of our lives. You can help us get ready for that fight by signing up to donate to the Local 21 Political Action Committee. 
Just click here!

Memorial for David Novogrodsky

We regret to announce the passing of David Novogrodsky, former Local 21 Executive Director, on Monday, September 14, 2015. He was 82.
Aside from his important role in L21, Novogrodsky also served as Executive Board Member of the San Francisco Labor Council. He was a fearless advocate for labor and social justice. He will be greatly missed by everyone whose lives he touched.
He was a leader who contributed much to the growth and prosperity of the Union during his tenure from 1981 through 2006.
A Memorial Celebration for David Novogrodsky hosted by
Carol Isen, Richard Isen, Bob Muscat, Lois Scott, Gus Vallejo, Conny Ford &IFPTE Local 21 will be held Friday, November 6, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM (PST) at
ILWU Local 34 l, 2nd at King St.
San Francisco, CA 9410

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