“Oh God, not another pizza party.”
From the office holiday get-together to intramural sports leagues, at some point in your working life, you’re bound to be asked to attend an out-of-office event and hear a supervisor call you and your coworkers a “family”. Blending the personal and professional can sometimes feel inauthentic at best, or, for lack of a better word, suck. So when thinking about how to best build solidarity among members of your union, whether remote or in-person, you don’t want to fall into that trap of copying what the bosses do.
Keeping members engaged is all about finding a balance between encouraging participation without alienating them or burning people out. To quote the lefty poet and playwright Oscar Wilde; “The trouble with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.”
This becomes all the more complicated when in a remote workplace. The last thing anyone wants to do after 8 hours of zooms is... well more zooms. So, here’s a few tactics to consider when trying to keep your members engaged.
Check-in with members often and meet them where they are
If the whole point of a union is to represent the rights and well-being of workers and to ensure they are justly compensated for their labor, then you should have a baseline understanding of who these people are as individuals and what their interests are.
Make sure to schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with your members and listen to their concerns. Make space for them and make sure they feel heard! Also, take notes. Last thing: phone calls are fine if your coworkers are on the go and can’t video chat. Meet them where they are.
Another easy way to keep everyone connected is to consider using a messaging app like Signal, Slack, or Discord and create channels that are open to everyone. In whatever public channel you create, share articles or social media posts about your industry, memes that are relevant, updates that are crucial to your members. Try to make it a place for people to feel comfortable commenting their observations on the job and content they catch on social media. If you go this route, consider creating some sort of community standards (here’s an example) for the chat to ensure everyone’s on the same page, and avoid any abuses or inappropriate content.
When having a union meeting, stick to your agenda
People are busy! If you’re calling on everyone to get together for a video meeting or conference call, you should not only have an agenda, but share that agenda with workers beforehand and stick to it. The more respectful you are of your members’ time, the more willing they’ll be to join in and participate.
Set realistic goals and remember mental health care is important
Since you’re spread out and asking a question isn’t as easy as just walking down the hall, over-communicate with your members. Make it known that they can come to you with whatever questions they have.
With the action or project you’re planning, set realistic goals. If you know your members, then you know who might be able to commit some extra time to the union, but never assume and always check in with folks before piling onto their to-do lists.
Also, remember that mental health care is important. If you see someone is burnt out, be proactive and talk to them about it. As I just mentioned: never assume anything so ask and see where they’re at and if they need a breather from union activities, give them the space to do so.
It’s been said elsewhere in the Guide, but repetition is everything: “organizing is a marathon, not a sprint.”