Identifying Local Mobilizing Issues
The mobilizing model must be implemented on the Division level if we are going to build PEF power. Our power at the Division, Agency, Regional and Statewide level will be built as the result of successful mobilizing on local as well as statewide issues that are important to our membership. It is important for Divisions to begin to identify local mobilizing issues. How do we know if an issue is a good issue for mobilizing? Organizing for Social Change has identified the following criteria to use to determine if an issue is a good issue. According to Organizing for Social Change your issue should match most of the criteria. The issue should:
- Result in a Real Improvement in People’s Work Situation
If you can see and feel the improvement then you can be sure it has actually been won. For example, if a workplace concerned about ongoing health and safety problems, a promise from the employer to run more frequent equipment inspections would be less valuable than getting a new ventilation system in place.
- Give Workers a Sense of their Own Power
Workers should come away from the campaign feeling that the victory was won by them, not by union staff, outside experts, or lawyers. This builds both the confidence to take on larger issues and loyalty to the organization. In addition, it makes it more difficult for the employer to break the union because the workers feel a sense of ownership.
- Inspire the Members
Most people will work harder for a cause – for “dignity and respect”, or “justice on the job” – than they will for an extra 2 percent raise.
- Be Worth the Effort
Members should feel that they are fighting for something about which they feel good, and merits the effort. If a minor issue would take a major job action to win, involving a great amount of time or risk, then it probably is not worth the effort.
- Be Winnable
The problem must not be so large and insurmountable so that the union is overwhelmed and the membership is demoralized in the process. Especially in the beginning of an internal organizing or contract campaign it is important to start with easier, more winnable issues to build worker confidence and to get them to see that it is worth the effort. In determining what is winnable, it is important to analyze to what lengths the employer is willing to go to fight your efforts.
- Be Widely Felt
Many people must feel that this is a real problem and must agree with the solutions. It is not enough that a few people in one department feel strongly about it. The best issues affect as many interest groups as possible crossing departments, job classification, gender, race and seniority divisions.
- Be Deeply Felt
People must not only agree, but feel strongly enough to do something about it. It is not enough that many people agree about the issue, but don’t feel strongly.
- Be Easy To Understand
It is preferable that you don’t have to convince people that the problem exists, that your solution is good, and that they want to help solve it. For example, if the issue is a very important change in the pension plan, but one that is legalistic and extremely difficult to describe in language that the members understand, it is probably not a good issue.
- Send a Clear message to Management
Effective issues are those that let the employer know that this is a serious concern of the members and that not addressing the concern will serve only to strengthen the union’s resolve and involve increasing cost to the employer. It is essential that it be clear to the employer early on what action it would take to resolve the problem.
- Have a Clear Time Frame that Works for You
An issue campaign has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You should have an idea of the approximate dates on which those points will fall. Some time frame factors are internal, that is, set by your organization. Some are external, set by someone else. For example, the union cannot control the existing contract expiration date, but they can control when they will start building for the contract campaign. Does the time of major effort in your campaign fall at a particularly difficult part of the year, such as mid-August or Christmas week? The Spring and fall are best for most groups in most places.
- Be Non-Divisible
Avoid issues that divide your membership. Issues that benefit one group at the expense of another are especially problematic.