Welcome new members
Do you know when new employees start at your organization?
Ideally, when a new hire starts at your organization, and that person will be in the bargaining unit, the union will participate in that new hire’s orientation. Many employers, however, don’t agree to this. Short of being part of a new hire’s orientation, your Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) may include a clause stating that the employer will notify the union when a new employee, whose position is in the bargaining unit, will begin employment at the organization. It’s often under the article called “Union Security.” The clause will say something like, “The Employer will notify the Shop Steward of the names of all new employees hired in the bargaining unit at the time such new employee is hired.”
Why is this important? Among other reasons, it tells you to prepare to welcome a new bargaining unit member. If you don’t have a clause like this in your CBA, talk to your staff representative about negotiating one during your next contract negotiations.
When to welcome a new member
Once the new employee arrives, you or someone else from the union (“a union representative”) should reach out to the new employee within one week of the new hire’s start date to schedule a New Member Orientation. First, that new hire is important; s/he is a potential new union member. Second, you want to control your bargaining unit’s message; you don’t know what management has already told the new hire about the union. Therefore, the sooner the Union orients the new hire, the better.
Before you meet with the new employee, check your CBA. Under the “Union Security” article, there may be a clause that says something like, “All employees hired into bargaining unit positions shall, as a condition of employment, join the Union within sixty (60) calendar days following the date of hire.” Your CBA might say “30 days” or “90 days.”
Why is this important? When a union representative holds a New Member Orientation with the new hire, it’s important to know by when s/he needs to join the union. If your CBA states that new hires must join the union within 30 days, make sure the union representative informs the new hire of this fact. It shows respect. We don’t want a situation in which a new hire is told, “Here – sign this card. You have to join.” Nobody likes to be told what to do. Also, that person may have some time until s/he needs to join the union.
Who should conduct the New Member Orientation
Think strategically about orientation facilitators, paying attention to the race, gender, and age of new hires. Consciously or not, new hires will decide if they can see themselves in the union when they look at the person facilitating their formal union orientation. Long-tenured leaders or members may be the most knowledgeable about the union, but they may not be the most effective representatives of the union if they talk down to people of different ages or genders. Having an experienced leader and a younger member facilitate orientations together can help convey to new hires that the union is knowledgeable and diverse. As with the formal orientation, pay attention to race, gender, age, and even occupation of new hires when considering which union members will conduct informal outreach to new hires.
Jobs with Justice, The Strategic Value of New Hire Orientations (2018)
What to discuss at a New Member Orientation
- Present a positive, substantive introduction to the union. The information new hires receive during the union’s formal orientation session substantially impacts their views of the union. A positive first interaction with an organization creates a stronger, more positive attitude toward the organization. Develop a presentation that is informative and convincing. Remain mindful of the real-world issues new hires face, and avoid the temptation to oversell what the union can do. The more relevant
topics that are covered in the orientation, the more likely new members will perceive the orientation to be helpful. Jobs with Justice, The Strategic Value of New Hire Orientations (2018)
- Ask the new hire to join the union. You can explain what your CBA’s “Union Security” article says about new employees needing to join the union. For example, if new hires must join the union within 30 days, inform the new hire of this clause.
If the new hire says “yes” to joining the union
- Have him/her sign the Membership Dues Authoraization card.
- Encourage the new hire to become an active union member. Tell him/her when the next bargaining unit meeting will be.
- Provide a high quality, meaningful member packet to the new hire. Materials can include:
- a copy of your CBA
- a one-page highlight of union wins at the workplace that can include pictures and quotes
- a Member Benefits Packet (see below for request form)
- the new hire’s membership card (included in the Member Benefits Packet)
- union paraphernalia (e.g. pens, t-shirts, pins)
- Ask him/her about any concerns. Try to listen to all of the new hires’s concerns before jumping in with counters.
- When the new hire is finished talking, address the new hire’s concerns with facts and/or your personal experience.
- If your CBA states that new hires must join the union within a certain number of days, gently remind the new hire of this clause. Tell the new hire that you’ll follow up with him/her at a later date. If your CBA does not have this clause and/or your workplace is located in a Right-to-Work state, tell the new hire that you’ll follow up with him/her at a later date.
- Follow up with the new hire at that later date. If your CBA states that new hires must join the union within a certain number of days, make sure that the new hire signs the Membership Dues Authorization Card. If your CBA does not have this clause and/or your workplace is located in a Right-to-Work state, ask the new hire if there are any additional concerns you might address. If, after discussion, the new hire states that s/he doesn’t want to join the union, accept the answer.