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Strong Women Growing the Union

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By Korey Hartwich Organizing Women
Trainees in Madison, Wis.
Trainees in Madison, Wis.: From left, Melvinia McClain, Astrid Zuniga, Jessica Drewberry, Carmen Flores, Se'Adoreia Brown, Robbie Barnes and Ann Sharpan.

At the AFSCME Women’s Conference this fall, more than 70 members signed up to become champions of their fellow workers, as Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs). These organizers help grow the union and are an integral part of AFSCME’s efforts to build a powerful voice for working people.

Seven Volunteer Member Organizers from across the country participated in a two-day training in Madison, Wis., in which they learned one-on-one skills that will help them better connect their struggles with those of their fellow workers. They tell personal stories about how their union and their union activism have made a difference in their lives.

“Talking with my fellow union members was really exciting,” said Robbie Barnes a member of Local 112, AFSCME Maryland, and a child protective services investigator with the state’s Department of Social Services.

“The training taught me how to effectively communicate and to engage people about the importance of unions in our lives. Organizing was new for me and I was nervous my first time, but I had an organizer with me so we worked together as a team. And I signed up three members on my first campaign in Madison!”

Paired with an experienced organizer, the Volunteer Member Organizers visited Wisconsin members in their homes and in state offices to talk about the importance of becoming proactive members of the union.

“This was a great experience for me,” said Carmen Flores, a member of New York District Council 37, Local 1549.

“We learned to talk to people in such a powerful, positive way that workers will feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their union and will want to help make a difference. We can’t take the union for granted – we’ve got to ask ‘Who’s the they? Who is going to do the work to defend us?’ We are responsible for ourselves, for our union and for our future.”

To learn more about becoming an AFSCME Volunteer Member Organizer, contact Aisha Salleh at (202) 429-4313 or email