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Sign-up simplified: Ideas from the St. Paul Federation of Teachers

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers is doing a lot of things right. Here are a few of their ideas – on reaching fair-share payers at work, and simplifying the sign-up process - that can benefit us all.

To start, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers came up with a fair-share conversion plan. Then they secured union leave for six executive board members and activists. SPFT staff trained the volunteers in the basics of the organizing conversation and prepare them to act as member-organizers in the worksites.

The six member-organizers are in the worksites as often as possible, working through lists of fair share-payers, conducting organizing conversations, and asking fair-share payers to join. Many say ‘I thought I was a member.’ So far over 100 fair-share payers have become members. With school about to end, staff are working with member-organizers to prepare for summer house-calls.

They are solving problems as they go. Initially, the paperwork for membership was onerous. Great organizing conversations would terminate in frustration, as potential members got bogged down in 10 minutes worth of paperwork to confirm their status. Staff and member-organizers thought up a way around this. They stripped away all the paperwork that was non-essential. Then they combined their still-a-bit-long membership form with their database of fair-share payers, auto-filled the fields, and printed the forms for all fee payers. Member organizers now walk into the worksite with completed membership forms for all fair-share payers. If, during an organizing conversation, a potential member decides to join, she need only provide her signature at the bottom of the form.

Warning! This streamlined form is sufficient for St. Paul but may not be sufficient where you are. Always check with legal counsel before changing the language on your member sign-up forms.

These six member organizers are covering as many worksites as possible before the school year ends. With no time to map each site, the member organizers have found it effective to first meet with the worksite steward for directions on how to find each fair-share payer on the list. In a few sites where there was no steward available, the organizers worked with clerical staff, (and once or twice, the principal), to locate fair-share payers and initiate an organizing conversation.

‘Nobody goes in the NO pile.’ While many fair-share payers join right away, not all do. If the initial conversation doesn’t lead to membership, that fair-share payer is revisited, to continue the conversation and keep building the relationship.

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