The Right Strategy for Growth in Right-to-Work States

Solidarity Sunday: The Right Strategy for Growth in Right-to-Work States

This month 3.4M kids will graduate from public high school in the U.S.; the highest number in decades. More of them (1.34M) will graduate in the south than in any other region in the country.

The south is defined as Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. All but 2 of the 16 are Right-to-Work states. And like it or not, the Right-to-Work states are growing in population at a faster clip.

Which means that if we are going to grow our roster of younger, newer members, if we're going to keep turning out craftspeople, keep putting money into our pensions for future generations to retire, we're going to have to flourish in Right-to-Work states.

Some may argue, but I don't believe labor benefits nearly as much from contributions to politicians as we want to believe. Depending on politicians alone to carry our water is a losing battle. If we get help from them, that's a bonus, but we're going to have to do it without counting on their help.

Furthermore, the fact that we do not have a true labor party in this country means that labor issues often get lumped in with issues our membership may not agree with. They are often forced to choose between voting for candidates who are ostensibly pro-labor or voting for their personal values.

That's a losing proposition, because given the choice, identity drives all behavior. Like it or not, we make decisions based on who we believe ourselves to be. And in a voting booth, that identity wins.

The path forward is developing better strategy. Like my dad used to say, "If it is to be, it's up to me".

It's up to us to increase our market share. It's up to us to be more attractive to young people coming out of high school. It's up to us to show those who may not go to college that there's a future for them in the union trades. It's up to us to display a culture that is more attractive than non-union culture. It's up to us to convey a better value proposition to those who work non-union.

We're going to have to do it without the help of politicians, and often in spite of employers. We're going to have to be better than the non-union sector at telling our story.

It's got to happen at the local jurisdiction level. Because that's where the boots are on the ground.

The good news is that we've proven it can be done. All of the locals we work with are in right-to-work states. One of our clients has grown their membership by 2300+ members. It takes strong local labor leaders who have a vision to serve their membership long after they're gone.

It takes a strong digital outreach strategy to go along with a good organizing strategy, to speak to new prospective members in a medium where they spend a majority of their time, before they ever need us. It takes consistent pro-active communication with simple, powerful narratives, that cut through the clutter.

Strategy Beats Creativity

Leaders who display accountability can generate a memorable message that cuts through the clutter. This message isn't necessarily 'creative' but it is simple, accountable, and powerful. We are currently running this campaign in one of our markets with great success. They receive multiple calls every broadcast off of this one ad. Let us develop a communication strategy for your Local Union.


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