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10 Steps to Using Benefits in Union Organizing

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  1. Understand your members' needs.
  2. Know the programs.
  3. Train your committee.
  4. Appoint or elect a benefits coordinator.
  5. Integrate benefits strategy into the overall campaign.
  6. Develop special benefits materials for each campaign.
  7. Union Privilege can help you respond to member questions.
  8. Understand how to use the financial programs.
  9. Continually evaluate.
  10. Consult with Union Privilege.
     

1. Understand your members' needs. Conduct a survey to find out your members' awareness of the national Union Plus benefits and to determine interest in local benefits. What are common characteristics for your members (or potential members)? For example, lower income members may have less interest in the mortgage program, but more interest in the legal service. For older workers, health needs may be an important concern, so the health savings program may be popular. The local benefits survey can be useful in helping you to understand your members' needs.

2. Know the programs. Understand the key benefits of each program.  Also, programs like the legal service and health savings programs are very popular in organizing campaigns. Before promoting these programs, please make sure there are enough providers for the legal service or health savings program in the area. To obtain lists of participating providers, information about availability of the insurance programs, or to recommend attorneys or dental providers that may be willing to offer discounted services to union members call 1-800-472-2005 or search online. You can also recommend a lawyer for the legal program online.

3. Train your committee. Take advantage of our resources to help you in conducting training on the Union Plus programs. To order these materials, call Union Privilege at 1-800-472-2005, e-mail leaders@unionplus.org or print and return this material order form.

4. Appoint or elect a benefits coordinator. You may want to form a special benefits committee to focus on benefits strategy including development of special local benefits to supplement the national programs. The committee should include representatives from any organizing or negotiating committees. A benefits coordinator should be appointed to help coordinate all activities and be the one point of contact.

5. Integrate benefits strategy into the overall campaign. Position the benefits in coordination with the overall theme for the campaign. Examples include:

  • Family-focused ("Benefits to Help Your Families Live Better.")
  • Collective empowerment ("Through the power of our union and the AFL-CIO")
  • Money savings ("It doesn't cost to be a union member - It pays!")

Give careful consideration to the timing of the rollout of each benefit. An early rollout gives management more time to counter the benefits with programs of their own, rollout too late may not give enough time for the benefits to make an impact. You can use this guide to developing local benefits to help you put the benefits in place.

6. Develop special benefits materials for each campaign. Benefits lend themselves well to fliers, brochures, newsletter articles, e-mail communications, posters, window decals and coupons. Many unions hold meetings or events with benefits as a focus, such as lunch-n-learn meetings, benefits fairs, raffles, etc. See samples of approaches used in other successful campaigns. Visit the online press room for other ideas.

7. Union Privilege can help you respond to member questions. Members will likely want to know more information about the programs. Some members may need assistance in dealing with program providers. Get help from Union Privilege every step of the way. You can also refer to answers on frequently asked questions, but it is important to use member questions as an opportunity to reinforce the value of their local union representatives. Feel free to call the Union Privilege leader line at 1-800-472-2005 or e-mail leaders@unionplus.org.

8. Understand how to use the financial programs: Many of your members will qualify for our financial programs, but some members may have credit problems that prevent them from qualifying to participate in a financial program. It is important to position the financial programs such as credit cards, loans and mortgages, with care. The union does not make the credit decisions, but just as in a union contract with an employer, we have grievance procedures built into our contracts with banks and other program providers. If a member is dissatisfied with any program for any reason, he or she should let us know so we can advocate on his or her behalf. We can't guarantee every member a credit card, but we can guarantee that they understand the credit granting process and have a clear understanding of the decision that was made. You can contact the Union Privilege Member Advocate at 1-800-472-2005.

Union Plus Credit Counseling has many free debt management services for union members and the Union SAFE program offers grants to qualified union members facing financial hardship.

9. Continually evaluate. Are the benefits helping you reach your objectives? Are members satisfied with the programs? What more can be done? You must continually evaluate if the benefits are working for you.

10. Consult with Union Privilege. Union Privilege has an organizing expert with vast experience on staff. We can review materials for accuracy before printing. Discuss strategy with us. Call 1-800-472-2005 or you send an e-mail to leaders@unionprivilege.org.

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