AFGE District 14 National Vice President Ottis Johnson Jr. knows from his years as a union activist how important it is for members to have access to leaders and space to share ideas with one another.
That’s why in January 2021, District 14 established the “NVP Chat Room,” a forum where local leaders throughout the district can ask questions about different issues and receive advice and best practices.
This informal meeting has no agenda, and local leaders can jump on and off the call at their leisure. Topics have ranged from domestic violence, vaccine mandates, and new employee orientations to conversations about summer BBQs.
“I really wanted to create an informal space where local leaders can come and say what’s on their mind,” Johnson said. “During these sessions there is no agenda, no official announcements made. We just allow the leaders to kick off conversation in whatever direction they’d like, and it’s proven successful.”
Guest speakers also have been featured during the chat room sessions. Recently, AFGE Workers’ Compensation Specialist Joe Mansour and District 14 Legal Rights Attorney Ericka Dorsey spoke about filing COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims and requests for reasonable accommodations.
AFGE local leaders in District 14 also appreciate the biweekly open forums.
Tyra McClelland, treasurer of AFGE Local 727, finds the virtual component more helpful than in-person meetings.
“The District 14 Chat Room allows me to share and receive information that I would have missed even in an in-person sitting, as Zoom forces you to speak one at a time,” said McClelland. “The chat room also allows us to converse with other local leaders about why we do what we do. We’re able to share our thoughts, ideas, stories, which empowers me.”
David Verardo, president of AFGE Local 3403, referred to the NVP Chat Room as a “lifeline.”
“The D-14 NVP chats are a lifeline to local presidents as a place we can all gather to exchange views and perspectives and learn from each other,” said Verardo. “We also get to know what AFGE leadership is up to and how they can help the locals and vice versa. Ottis Johnson is helping us build a community of labor leaders.”
The NVP Chat Room occurs every other Thursday from 3-5 p.m. ET on Zoom. For more information, contact AFGE District 14.