a person climbing a rock

Scaling the Mountain

Solidarity Sunday: Scaling the Mountain

Good organizers are like mountain climbers. They are put in a risky position of great responsibility, without much margin for error. Similarly, organizing requires skills that can only be taught by experience, yet it's a job on which the future of the local union rests. Scaling the side of mountain is often two steps forward, one step back. It may be the most difficult job in any local union administration.

"I don't believe I'd have made it up the mountain
Without the fire burning up my behind"
- Oliver Wood

Where better to find inspiration to climb a mountain than a mountain climber.

I first learned of amateur mountain climber Jim Huebner through author Roy H. Williams. At age 50, Huebner decided that he wanted to climb Mount McKinley; The tallest mountain in North America…all 20,000 feet of it. He came up with Six Rules of Mountaineering.

These Six Rules are perfectly applicable to Organizing:

  1. Climb with Passion: People can tell when you are authentically passionate, and when you're just going through the motions. If your organizer doesn't have an abundance of passion for your local union and what its done for them personally…if they don't fully believe in the mission of the local union…if they wouldn't try and organize their best friend, they aren't right for the job. Successful organizers have passion.
  2. No Guts, No Glory: It takes bravery and courage to talk to people you don't know, on grounds where they may not be expecting to see you, in a place you are often unwelcome. In order to succeed, you must be prepared to pay the price of failure. Successful organizers are courageous.
  3. Expect Dead Ends: There are ways to plan and tools to use to improve your success, but there will always be dead ends. Things take longer than you anticipate. Problems arise. They always do. Ineffective people turn obstacles into excuses. Effective people adapt and overcome. Successful organizers have grit and persistence.
  4. Never Turn Your Back on Your Partner: We are in this together. Our strength is in our solidarity. Otherwise, we are a glorified temp agency. We must live and die on our principles. Never forget that. The way to show loyalty is to be loyal. If you're recruiting people who only come to you for the money or the job, they will leave you for money or another job. Successful organizers are loyal.
  5. Never Look Where You Don't Want to Go: What you're doing in your mind is what you'll do on the job. You can't fool yourself. Some organizers use their role as a personal steppingstone. Others sacrifice their personal goals for the good of the union, believing that their personal goals will be rewarded as a result. Rest assured, the people you are recruiting and trying to organize can tell the difference. Successful organizers have faith.
  6. There's Always Room on the Rope for a Person with Honor: Effective organizers recognize someone who believes in superior craftsmanship, who will a good brother or sister, with integrity and honor. No matter how the job market is going, no matter many people we have on the book or how many open job calls there are, there is always room for someone with honor in our local union. Successful organizers have honor.

Speaking of Rules

During this time of year, many Apprenticeship Training Centers celebrate the turning-out ceremonies of new journeymen. When they are preparing to turn out, or they come to take their first referral as a Journeyman, are you talking to them and reinforcing the culture of your local union? For one of our local union clients, we created a "For New Journeyman" video. Every new journeyman watches this video right before or after turning out. Union Up takes pride in helping our local union clients create compelling video content that helps reinforce your union culture.


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