August 1, 2008 Volume 109 Number 15

‘Unity Team’ goal is to aid in organizing

The Oregon AFL-CIO is trying to find ways to help affiliated unions organize nonunion workplaces.

In April, the state labor federation brought Graham Trainor on staff to coordinate the effort, which was mandated by a September 2007 convention resolution. Prior to that, Trainor headed up the Oregon chapter of the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate, Working America. His new position is funded by a grant from the national AFL-CIO.

The effort — dubbed the Unity Team — brings together unions that are interested in organizing, so that they can share resources.

In June, about two dozen union decision-makers met to talk about ways to collaborate. The group voted to undertake six projects of varying sizes. Those include helping recruit a ‘salt’ for one campaign, lending organizers to help visit workers in their homes on several campaigns, and turning out members for a rally to highlight unfair labor practices of a large corporation that is being targeted by an affiliate.

Other ideas were floated. If a union tries to organize in a remote part of the state where it has no office, other unions could make meeting or office space available. The Working America member list — citizens signed up by paid canvassers as supporters of labor movement goals — could be lent out as needed. And the AFL-CIO would help smaller affiliates train their organizers.

The decision-makers will continue to meet quarterly.

Trainor is also helping to resurrect the Oregon AFL-CIO Organizing Committee, a kind of roundtable for professional organizers to share ideas and strategy. They’ll meet six times a year, the second Tuesday of every other month. Sept. 9 is the next meeting. And the third Wednesday of each month, union organizers will meet for a happy hour event. “We want to build a federation-wide culture of organizing,” Trainor said.

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