Growing Through Trial and Success

The leadership of AFSCME Local 2227 knew they had to think outside the box when it came to strengthening their voice at the bargaining table. Going into contract negotiations with Polk County School Board, they figured the best way to do that was to grow the local, easier said than done in a large district in a Right to Work For Less state like Florida.

“We’ve been making progress with the one-on-one conversations and being in attendance at the In-Services our district requires our employees to attend,” said Local 2227 Executive Vice President, Neil Devine; an HVAC Preventative Maintenance Technician who has been an advocate for growth during his many years with Local. “Since I began tracking membership in 2011 we have increased our membership by more than 50 percent but we still have a lot of room to grow.” 

Devine and other members put together a mini-membership blitz the week before the district’s Christmas Break to get a better sense of issues their coworkers were most concerned about and what messages gained traction.

“Momentum moves masses,” said Devine. “So this was really about letting members know that now is the time to get active and organized and figuring out what works so we can have a bigger and better blitz in 2017.” 

Devine said that most of the staff were really moved to action by seeing that through stepping up and making their voice heard they can help stop the district’s attempts to more than double the amount they pay into their health coverage and increase their copays when they use their coverage.

The mini-blitz was a huge success with 66 new members joining in just the few days that it took place. With 2,400 employees covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and contract negotiations getting tougher, the clear contrast between becoming active and winning vs inaction and seeing what will come is exactly the choice they had hoped to present to their coworkers.

“My co-workers and I are the next generation of members that must either protect or lose everything that those who came before us fought and won.  I am not content with maintaining, I want to make it even stronger and this shows there are a lot of others who feel the same way.”