The Importance of New Member Orientations

Monday, January 29, 2018
There's an old adage that you only have one chance to make a good first impression. It's also critical to orienting - and organizing - new members into the union.
 
"You have to get them right away," said Adrian Sauceda, an international representative in the IBEW Membership Development department. "The first person who goes to them, that's the face of the union."
 
Orienting new hires as early as possible is one of eight best practices from a new report by Jobs with Justice, a workers' rights organization, and Pennsylvania State University. The guide, "Making the Case for Union Membership: The Strategic Value of New Hire Orientations," found that orientations can increase new member sign-ups and bolster commitment to the union - commitment that translates to more members fighting for their union.
"There's a different feeling when you have a sense of allegiance," said IBEW Director of Professional and Industrial Organizing Jammi Juarez. "The bond is stronger."
 
No one is a blank slate when it comes to unions, cautioned the report, which was drawn in part from a survey of 49 unions and interviews with labor officials involved with new member orientations. People have heard about unions and they may harbor negative opinions. Orientations provide an opportunity to change that narrative. And the first thing they hear should be positive, Sauceda and Juarez said.
 
"It's your chance to say, 'Welcome to the IBEW, here's my number if you need anything,'" Sauceda said.
 
Juarez said she made the orientations she did as an organizer with Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 interactive, another best practice: Make sure the training is high quality, engaging and useful. One tactic involved creating a scavenger hunt with the contract so members had to open it up and look through it.
When he was an organizer with Houston Local 716, Sauceda said he made sure to tell people about the cyclical nature of construction and that, when business was slow, they still had opportunities to work, whether by traveling or working for the union in some capacity.

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