McAlevey points out that the entire structure of work has changed over recent years. That means that there are many workers who don’t see how unions could work for them, and who have to be reintroduced to the entire concept of unions. “The way that unions can keep any kind of skin in the game is by rethinking their relationship to their own rank and file and rethinking their relationship to their broader community,” she says.
“How about budgeting the time and recruiting a ton of your top rank and file leaders to go out and meet with damn near every single member of the union, in their worksites, in their neighborhoods, in community meetings?” She suggests that from there, workers themselves could chart and track the relationships they have in their community, figure out their connections. “What is the social fabric of the relationships that the 16 million members of unions in this country hold?”
16 million, she notes, isn’t a lot when it comes to the percentage of the workforce (7 percent of the private sector), but it’s still a lot of people who have a lot of connections and can have conversations with their community. But to get there, the union members have to feel connected, have to take responsibility, and have to feel like they own their union and they care about their union. “There’s no reason to expect that a rank and file member is going to prioritize and make time to reintroduce the value of their union to their community unless they value their union.”
This kind of work can be done, she notes, and must be done—the same way unions put together a Get-Out-The-Vote machine for presidential elections.
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