AFGE Local 420 at the United States Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia had zero E-Dues members on Aug. 13. The following day, it switched to AFGE E-Dues, and within 24 hours, the local signed up a whopping 70 E-Dues members. The number went UP to 100 just 12 hours later – an amazing feat by any standard. How did they do it?
Well, it took a bit of planning and improvising.
The local had planned to have a member appreciation event where members would receive a free AFGE T-shirt and a tumbler that they would use to show union pride in their workplace. After the local decided to switch to E-Dues, it tweaked the plan a bit to have several local officers at the event to talk to members about the need to switch from the government-controlled payroll deduction system to the AFGE-operated E-Dues system. The local sent out an email to members about the event and asked them to bring their personal information with them. When people came in, they were asked to switch over to AFGE E-Dues.
“We took the time to explain it, why the switch is so critical right now with what the administration is trying to do to us. And everybody gets that,” said Local 420 President Richard Heldreth. “Everybody we’ve spoken to so far has been on board.”
Indeed, these employees are sending a strong message that they won’t let any politicians or managers take away their rights to join with their coworkers to have a voice at work.
Heldreth said most members don’t have any problem switching to E-Dues. They just need to find the time to do it. Since the prison operates around the clock and has three shifts, the local tries to have union reps available to sign up people when it’s convenient for members. To ease concerns about information security, the local only uses desktop computers.
A Call to Action
The local heard about E-Dues at the last AFGE convention but took a wait-and-see approach, concerned that membership would drop if HR was not involved. But now that the administration has shown its willingness to eliminate dues deduction across the government, the local decided to make the switch.
“The urgency from what the administration is trying to do to us outweighs that [concern]. It’s better to have a majority of your local on board even if we do lose a few members – and I don’t want to lose anybody,” Heldreth explained. “But it’s better than to wake up one morning to an executive order or something telling us that HR is no longer taking dues and you lose everybody. Then it’s a mad dash to try to organize and get it done at the last minute.”
Since the initial launch, members have been coming in during their lunch breaks to switch to AFGE E-Dues. The local’s number of E-Dues members has since doubled to over 200, and it’s going up every day.
Ready to switch your Local to E-Dues?
Talk to your local leadership or District office about how to get started.