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Organizing on Purpose

Solidarity Sunday: Organizing on Purpose

"Young people just don't have the work ethic we did They just don't want to work"

That's what a lot of Gen X'ers and Boomers and old heads on the job say. I hear that on jobsites, in union meetings, in side-bar conversations. I'm even guilty of thinking it myself sometimes. Perhaps it's deeper than that.

But it is true?

Walk into many retail environments where young people work and you can see the lack of motivation in their eyes. Young people feeling they have no real reason to be there, and that life has no real meaning. And it's a dangerous way of being. Nihilism.

Everything is corrupt, I'm working for pennies, there is no future, nothing means anything, so who gives a damn if your coffee order is correct.

It's easy to see why. They live tethered to the blowtorch of doom in their pocket. They are cynical, and they can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. This is the environment in which we find ourselves recruiting.

The work we do it hard. And attractors like money and benefits only go so far in motivating someone to get up and go to work every day. It boils down to this…There is an existential energy one needs simply to get out of bed in the morning. The long-term energy needed to sustain us through the ups and downs of life is tied directly to one thing…purpose.

In her book The Search for Fulfillment, Dr. Susan Whitbourne points out that a sense of purpose has two measures:

  1. I feel there is direction in my life
  2. My plans for the future match my interest and values

Are we speaking to those needs in our recruiting efforts?

Too many times I see local union messages attempting to answer questions about "who", "when", "where", and "how much", when the only question on the mind of those we are recruiting is "why".

We know it can be done because we see it every time a class of apprentices turnout as journeymen. They have the light of possibility in their eye. Sure they are going to make more money as a result, but it was way deeper than that. They set off as JW's with a sense of accomplishment, of purpose, of unity, of meaning. Of belonging to something greater than themselves.

The tuition-free skills we teach, and the money that can be made as a result are awesome, but they are merely a by-product of a greater purpose. Those who stick with us long-term, those who pay their dues month-after-month, year-after-year, those who live the union culture from first hire to retire, are the ones who see their membership as a part of a higher purpose.

IF they come to you for money alone, they will leave you for money alone. It must be about something more than "drawing a paycheck from the man". It must be about purpose.

Unions are a Pathway to Purpose

Alex McGee was admittedly going nowhere. No direction, no future, no purpose. But Alex's mother knew he was built for better than the "road to hell or jail", and somehow so did Alex. Alex found purpose and turned his life around, and the IBEW provided the pathway. There are kids like Alex all over the place who know they have promise, they just need to know that we can provide the program to fulfill that need in theilr life. Listen to Alex's story:


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