How to Strengthen Your Union & Influence People

Categories: Member Profile

Typically, retirees spend their golden years somewhere warm, put their feet up and enjoy not having to engage in the daily grind. But, Ron Demicheli is not your typical retiree.

"I'm a social activist, I believe in being active. I don't believe in just sitting around letting someone else control my destiny."

After he retired from the Department of Energy, Demicheli's work wasn't done. He saw the increasing threats Congress had laid on unions and working families, and decided to continue the fight. His strategy? Rally his union brothers and sisters to fight back.

He saw success right off the bat, convincing over 25% of his local, Local 1961, to donate to the cause. The secret to his success? One-on-one engagement.

"First of all, you had to make your members understand that as federal employees, we are at the whims of Congressmen and Senators," he said. "And if you want to influence them, as the old saying goes, money talks. So we have always put a premium on that."

The next step was to make people feel comfortable, and to listen to their concerns and ideas for workers like them. For Demicheli, this meant taking people away from the workplace to talk.

"We started a regimen where we would take two to four people out to lunch," Demicheli said. "We tell them we want to talk about our successes, and what they thought of our performance, and what they would like to see in the future - and the idea is, that they would want to help us."

Once they felt comfortable, the final step was to show  members how valuable the union was to the workplace - which was easy for Demicheli. As the area's Legislative Political Coordinator, his colleagues saw his involvement in local politics and his work with friends like Congressman Mike Doyle, and realized how important the political side of union organizing was to their futures.

"Our local was just in the infancy of being politically active," Demicheli said. "We had some very motivated people that worked with me, and we canvassed for Mike Doyle. And he won his first election! He and I became friends, and being friends with him, I was introduced to other politicians that care about our issues. So it just sort of spawned from there."

Demicheli's activism doesn't just stop with AFGE. He serves on the boards of his area Central Labor Council and the Pennsylvania State Federation of Labor, committed to advocated for working people across the state. And his political activism extends past just fundraising, too. Over his career, he has made friends with multiple lawmakers in his area, all to help his local and his union thrive.

His circle of allies in the Pennsylvania state legislature grew to include both sides of the political aisle when he met Congressman Tim Murphy.

"Our site is in his district, so he's done some things for us to help us and help AFGE," Demicheli said. "Once you get comfortable in that arena, you don't really have a problem going to see anybody."

For this election, Demicheli is working with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO as a release staffer, helping to get pro-worker candidates for the Supreme Court and state senate elected to the state's legislature in the 37th District.

Why does he continue all of this work? Because to Demicheli, his retirement is not the end of his activism.

"Even as a retiree, I don't say that 'I've made it, I'm a retiree, I've reached the promised land, I'm safe.' I don't believe that," he said. "And I tell retirees that. Your pension could be taken away, could be changed. Look what they're doing to the school teachers in different states. That's just me. I believe that change begins with me."

That's why AFGE declared him the winner of the prestigious Ed Klein Political Action award at this year's 40th National Convention.

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