Becoming AFSCME Strong One Door at a Time

AFSCME Florida leaders across North Florida started the new year with an intensive weekend AFSCME Strong training session so, after taking those lessons back to their fellow members, it was time to take the next time and apply what they learned to coworkers who had not joined yet.

Jacksonville is America’s largest city in terms of land area which means worksites and coworkers become spread out very quickly. So to ensure the AFSCME green was seen in force across the city at one time, members participated in an organizing blitz earlier this month.

Tad Lewek, a plan examiner with the City of Jacksonville’s Building Inspection Division and member of AFSCME Local 1279 said that he often hears the same problems leaders hear across the county – the union hasn’t reached out to them individually before, they don’t know how to find information about what is going on, and when AFSCME does reach out it may not always be when they are able to participate.

“The problems we face in terms of being spread thin are not unique so we hoped that an old-fashioned blitz would change things up so we can have more conversations and jump-start growth at some sites.”

Dozens of members and staff spent the week knocking on doors, visiting worksites and having as many face-to-face conversations as they possibly could. AFSCME has a long history in the city and the potential to represent a large number of workers.

“We worked tirelessly every day, from early morning to late in the evening, to get those conversations going and educate the workers,” said Lewek, who serves as a steward and on Local 1279’s executive board. “Almost everyone knew about the union but didn’t know how it could help where they worked or were nervous to join because of misinformation and misunderstands that have built up over time.”

By identifying the issues that mattered to the workers, having quality conversations and beginning the process of working together on shared issues, the blitz was able to sign up 71 new members.

“The new members we signed up over the blitz are really just the start because we had so many more quality conversations and started the ball rolling in so many places that we are going to be seeing dividends from this for weeks to come,” said Lewek. “The blitz may be done but the real growth is really just beginning.”