COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives and completely changed the way we work and communicate with each other. AFGE District 14, however, found a way to reach out to its members and stay connected.
The district held its first-ever virtual union fair on March 18 to maintain union visibility during the pandemic, using our newly minted NOW organizing techniques – to great success. The four locals that participated in the pilot welcomed more than 50 people to the virtual fair. Members and potential members joined a number of breakout rooms where union reps and AFGE staff showed them how they could be part of our movement for better pay, benefits, and respect on the job.
“In today’s environment, we have to reinvent the way that we conduct business,” said AFGE National Vice President for District 14 Ottis Johnson, Jr. “This program works because we have the strength of the entire federation behind us. We’re very happy about it. Already locals have requested to be a part of the next District 14 union fair.”
District 14’s virtual union fair was kicked off by AFGE National President Everett Kelley. Besides maintaining union visibility, the event allowed members and potential members to discuss issues important to them, pose questions to our in-house subject matter experts, and learn about several aspects of AFGE including our Y.O.U.N.G., Pride, Veterans Council, and PAC programs. Members were asked to bring a friend so they could learn more about our movement.
The union fair covers some important aspects of our union:
- Carlton Gullab, Keisha Williams, and Javier Soto explained how members have a right to union representation, the different types of representation, when and how a worker could be represented by a union rep, how workers can seek assistance, and how individuals could help their coworkers by becoming a steward.
- AFGE’s former Legislative Director Alethea Predeoux, Political Director Kevin Cooper, Field Legislative Action/Political Organizer Anthony Livingston, Legislative and Political Organizers Gabriel Pedriera and Alana Lewis gave an overview of the departments and discussed the importance of building our political power and why each local should have a Legislative and Political Coordinator. They explained how AFGE can tackle issues from both a representational approach and/or legislative approach.
- Membership and Organization Director David Cann, District 14 Special Assistant Peter Winch, and National Organizers Ann Levie and Francis Thompson talked about the purpose of the Membership and Organization department, organizing incentives, training, and the importance of being an active member of their local. Potential members joined them in the breakout room to have one-on-one conversations with organizers.
- Women’s and Fair Practices Departments’ Tyra McLelland and Frank Silberstein gave an overview of the departments, Equal Employment Opportunity, and benefits of having a local women’s and local fair practices coordinator. As District 14's Y.O.U.N.G Coordinator and AFGE National Pride Coordinator, Francis Nichols III presented an overview of those programs and stuck around after to speak with interested participants in the breakout room.
Locals that participated in the pilot virtual union fair were Local 1052 (Fort Belvoir), Local 1534 (Department of State/USAID), Local 1831 (National Gallery of Art), and Local 2798 (VA Medical Center)
A few tips on how to organize a virtual union fair from District 14 and NO Ann Levie
- Give yourself plenty of lead time for planning. Set a date as soon as possible in order to coordinate with your presenters/speakers as well as develop a plan to get the word out.
- Practice makes perfect. Hold a run through with the entire team in order to work out any technical issues especially if the team is not used to using the platform with breakout rooms.
- Outreach, outreach, outreach. A virtual union fair - or any virtual event - requires even more outreach to the bargaining unit than in-person events. Have a meeting with your Local leaders and NO to create an outreach plan with the goal of contacting every bargaining unit employee to invite them to the event and remind them the day before and the day of.
Need help organizing a virtual organizing event using the NOW techniques? Contact our amazing M&O Department at www.afge.org/OrganizeNOW.