by Pablo Ros | February 02, 2016
Carolyn Park enjoys having AFSCME Strong conversations with her co-workers.
“It makes you feel good,” she says. “It helps others understand that there’s more power in numbers…. One member thought union dues were used for political purposes. I assured her they were not, and then invited her and others to join the PEOPLE program. Talking to people, it gives them clarity and erases misconceptions.”
Park works with special needs students – 7th thru 11th graders – in Cincinnati Public Schools. She’s been an AFSCME member for 15 years and always active in her union.
“The union is the only tool that working people have to fight for a better life,” she says. “The union helps workers secure a contract, and that contract gives certain guarantees. I know what my benefits are going to be, I know what my wages are going to be, and I like that. That, to me, is a comfort.”
Working with special needs children, Park says her voice on the job has made it possible for her to advocate for the education and care her students need. As a member of the executive board of Local 232 (Ohio Council 8), she’s a firm believer in the power of face-to-face conversations with fellow co-workers to strengthen their union and amplify their voice on the job.
In January, Park participated in an AFSCME Strong training that she says properly conveyed the sense of urgency we need to feel at a time when public workers are constantly under the attack.
“This attack with the Friedrichs case, it’s just so blatantly wrong,” she says. “It’s more important now than ever to shore things up, to sign people up. And to talk union. People need to ‘talk union’ to their co-workers, their friends and their families. Everyone needs to understand the severity of the current attacks against unions and what is at stake! Unions set a bar in this country, a level for higher wages and better benefits. So, unless we want to spiral downward and race to the bottom, we need to keep our union strong! We need for people to understand that even if they’re not in a union, unions help keep wages and benefits up for non-organized workers as well.”
During a four-day blitz following the AFSCME Strong training, Park and her fellow AFSCME executive board members and trustees engaged more than 1,000 of their co-workers. More than 250 former fair share fee payers are now full-fledged members.
“It was a team effort,” she says.
Part of what helped them get such good results, Park says, was incorporating a specific local issue – in this case, a wage reopener – into their AFSCME Strong conversations.
“People are always ready for a raise,” she says. “That was kind of a lead-in, and if you want us to be able to do better or to do as good as we possibly can at the negotiating table, then it would make sense to sign a membership card or recommit, because it would be good if management knows we have strength in numbers.”
Park added, “We have to keep on building this union, building and strengthening this union. We can never give up.”
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