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Successful Organizing and AFSCME’s Free College Benefit: A Winning Combination

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Successful Organizing and AFSCME’s Free College Benefit: A Winning Combination

At one Cincinnati local, nearly 450 former fee payers have signed up to become full members thanks to strategic organizing by local leaders and AFSCME’s Free College Benefit program.

The tide of sign-ups began back in the winter of 2016, during a worksite blitz at Cincinnati Public Schools Local 232 (Council 8). AFSCME leaders, many of whom had participated in AFSCME Strong trainings, took the time to sit down with their colleagues to make the urgent case for becoming dues paying members.

“It’s more important now than ever to sign people up,” said Carolyn Park of the 2016 blitz.

Park, a special needs teacher and member of Local 232’s executive board, said that people needed to “talk union” to their co-workers, friends and families.

“Everyone needs to understand the severity of the current attacks against unions and what is at stake,” she said. “Unions set a bar in this country, a level for higher wages and better benefits.”

During that blitz, activists had one-on-one conversations with more than 1,000 of their co-workers. As a result, more than 250 fee payers signed up to become full members of AFSCME. And while the “current attack” Park was referring to in 2016 was the Friedrichs case, which deadlocked in the Supreme Court, the landscape in 2017 is no less worrisome as more and more states are turning their backs on the rights of public service workers.

There’s now an added bonus motivating fair share fee payers to become full dues paying members: AFSCME’s Free College Benefit. This special benefit allows AFSCME members –and their families – to attend college for free.

Through a partnership with Eastern Gateway Community College, members earn associate degrees at no cost. The program makes perfect sense for people who need flexibility, regardless of whether they completed high school one year ago or 25 years ago. Since its inception in 2015, more than 4,300 AFSCME members have taken advantage of the program.

The prospect of free college wasn’t lost on would-be members at a worksite blitz for Local 232 this past February, when leaders once again spoke with non-members about what joining AFSCME meant. This time, over a four-day period, 195 fee payers signed on to become full members.

The takeaway is clear: smart organizing, one-on-one engagement and incredible benefits make AFSCME an unstoppable force.