How One AFGE Local Is Using New Technology to Grow Their Union, Make Contact with Members, Potential Members

Categories: The Insider, Organizing

As our members know, the strength of the union is its members. Our collective power depends on the membership and their involvement in the issues that matter at work and elsewhere. But how do you reach members and nonmembers when they work in over 100 separate facilities on a 9,000-acre military installation? How do you let members and potential members know what the union is doing for them and about their opportunity to get involved to make the union even stronger?

Local 400 President Cheryl Burns-Stephens at Fort Drum, NY, has thought about all those things. She is planning on using a new tool being made available to AFGE locals by AFGE’s Membership and Organization Department – Broadstripes. It helps local unions text, email, and even call members and potential members.

AFGE Local 400 leaders prepare for an organizing event.

AFGE Local 400 leaders prepare for an organizing event.

Organizing During a Pandemic – Necessity Brings About New Tools, Tactics, Ideas 

Cheryl is a planner. Pre-COVID, her local’s Lunch & Learns were beyond organized. Using guidance from our afge.org website and her own natural talent for planning the details, she had a system. Each event was planned down to who was picking up the food and who was bringing the reading materials and union swag to the location on that day. There was no chance of forgetting spoons or paper plates or benefits flyers or tablecloths or pens – Cheryl had a standard list of what was needed and had it all packed & ready to go! (See https://www.afge.org/leaders-activists/organizing/ for organizing resources.)

Then COVID hit, and, through attrition, the local lost many members. Cheryl’s team intends to build the local back to its previous levels and beyond. To do that, the local will empower its members with information so they can also help build their local.

The local plans to reach as many members and potential members as possible. But how do you do that?

The answer: Every way you can, including: 

  • Mailings 
  • Information on the local’s Facebook page 
  • Texts and emails, including through Broadstripes and TargetSmart* 
  • Member to member contacts: Each One Reach One (or more!) 
  • Phone calls 
  • Bulletin boards 
  • Media 
  • Lunch & Learns in locations convenient for members and potential members 
  • A luncheon for Local 400’s retirees and members of Local 42, 2nd District’s Retiree and At-Large local who live in the area 
  • Evening events, to include Retirement Seminars open to employees and their families 
  • Using resources such as national representatives, national organizers, Benefit Architects representatives, legislative & political organizers, and retirees for additional manpower. 

Currently, the local has over 20 events planned for certain dates from August through October. But plans are subject to change as members ask to hold specific events.

They plan to use Broadstripes to tell their members about these events using texts, emails and phone calls.

Using Broadstripes and TargetSmart 

Broadstripes and TargetSmart are new tools made available to locals upon request by AFGE’s Membership and Organization Department. Described by some as “a database on steroids,” Broadstripes lets locals send mass texts or emails to all or a particular group of members. Communications can even go out to potential members if a local can get the contact information on them from TargetSmart -- with the assistance of AFGE.

The local can communicate with everyone by sending one message (Example: “Local membership meeting tomorrow night at 5!”) or just to folks in a particular location (Example: “Lunch & Learn in Bldg 5 on Wednesday!”).

If individuals respond to texts or emails, their message goes directly and only to the person who wrote to them - no annoying “respond to all.” Broadstripes also has a call center so that multiple callers can reach out with a specific message from the local -- almost like a phone bank!

Use of Broadstripes and TargetSmart is FREE to locals with one catch: The local needs to have an organizing plan. Locals who are not already taking advantage of this opportunity can get set up by contacting their assigned national rep. 


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