HOUSTON – Members of HOPE (Houston Organization of Public Employees) AFSCME Local 123 proudly serve their communities, but leaders say they need to grow stronger to survive the growing anti-union fervor from Lone Star State lawmakers.
That’s why HOPE – the only civilian city workers’ union in Texas – has begun conducting what will be a monthly series of AFSCME Strong trainings for its leaders. The next training is scheduled for today.
Participants will be able to brush up on their organizing skills, learn how to harness technology to innovatively sign up new members and get lessons in other ways to help HOPE expand.
“Look, I don’t wait for my check oil light go on, I don’t wait for the air to get low on my tires, why would I wait for something to happen to my union before I take measures to protect it? My union is as important as all those other things I take precautions to protect,” said Robert Frost, a department union representative (as HOPE stewards are known) who works at a public waste facility in Houston.
The first AFSCME Strong training, in July, attracted about 30 leaders from various departments where HOPE represents public service workers, such as administration, sanitation and public works, to name a few.
Participants went over organizing fundamentals piece by piece, did mock drills, gave each other feedback and drew up plans to conduct focused workplace organizing campaigns. With new leadership in place, HOPE is recommitting to keeping growth at the forefront of the union’s agenda and focusing sharply on fighting back attempts by Texas lawmakers to weaken unions.
The trainings are being offered in the run up to November, when Houston voters will be asked to approve $1 billion in pension obligation bonds. HOPE supports these bonds and is fighting to protect public service worker benefits and to ensure Houston’s continued financial stability.
Meanwhile, the Texas legislature ended a special session on Aug. 15 without passing a Senate-approved bill that would’ve banned payroll dues deduction for all public employees except first responders. A coalition of labor unions persuaded moderate House Republicans to block Senate Bill 7 from advancing.
(Contributing: Raju Chebium)