On May 16, 2015, Local 21 held its Delegate Assembly at the Hotel Whitcomb in San Francisco. About 100 union delegates from across all Local 21 jurisdictions attended.
Along with the day’s agenda, student loan and housing resource guides were handed out as people filed in.
Executive Director Bob Muscat welcomed the assembly with opening remarks. He underscored the need for holdover bargaining to remain on the table, as well as emphasized that sparking youth interest through pilot initiatives such as the Stewards Program are the foundations for the future of the union. Bob also stressed the need to maintain a close relationship with union members as well as to increase membership by encouraging our fellow fee payers to sign up.
Down to Business
The meeting then moved on to the business portion. First up was the Treasurer’s Report, followed by the Fiscal Year 15-16 Budget, both of which were approved by the assembly.
A lengthier discussion about Local 21’s plans for the new building followed. Bob introduced Molly Jans, the new Project Manager for the transition to the new office space. Bob outlined the local’s plan to save $5 million and that despite unforeseen delays resulting from the required retrofit and upgrades to the building, we are continuing to seek out the most economically advantageous options.
After wrapping up the business portion of the meeting, the keynote speaker, Maria Elena Durazo, Vice President for Immigration, Civil Rights and Diversity with UNITE HERE, reminded us all of why we chose to be active in our union — not just at the Delegate Assembly, but every day.
Introduced by Eileen Housteau, Local 21 Secretary, as the “lean mean working peoples’ machine,” Maria received a hearty welcome.
“I came here because I respect your union,” she told the audience. “But I also came here to challenge us.”
Maria reminded Local 21 members that we have more education, skills and knowledge than most other working people have. “That’s why much is expected of you,” she said. She mentioned the challenge of showing solidarity with other workers less fortunate, even those without papers, reminding us that everyone of us in the room that day is indeed a documented worker: “Our document is our union contract! This is the document that changes peoples lives.”
Moving Local 21 Forward
As boxed lunches were distributed, the Local 21 Young Worker Staff Committee introduced the next program segment, Moving Local 21 Forward, opening it up with a live poll of members in the room using a smartphone app called Mentimeter.
Attendees were polled about where they live versus where they work in order to map demographics and membership interests in shaping the local’s Next Generation approach. As people “checked in” via their smartphones, the bars grew live on the projector screen, producing these results:
Young Worker Organizing
Staff members Andrea Prebys-Williams, Jonathan Wright and Angela Long introduced the committee and stressed priorities for the local moving forward to attract its next generation of members, the future of the union. These cornerstones of youth outreach include:
- Increasing social media presence
- Highlighting young workers in communications
- More multimedia content in union publications
- Alliances with community groups
- Staff Trainings (related to next generation topics and moving local 21 forward)
- The union as a resource for: taxes, student loans, career counseling/planning, housing rights
Steps that have already been taken to attract younger members have been the integration of a digital membership card on the local’s website, fleshing out our Facebook and Twitter presence, and the formation of the Youth Workers Staff Committee.
The Young Worker Staff Committee emphasized that these short-term goals can be achieved by establishing immediate contact with new employees, and further down the road, organizing social activities and youth-oriented events. In the long term, Local 21 plans to implement a membership smartphone app and develop a Customer relationship management (CRM) staff for field staff to use in campaigns and bargaining.
Because affordable housing impacts a higher percentage of our younger members, we had a special training on affordable housing in the Bay Area. Time and time again, members tell us that they have been impacted by housing increases and evictions. Many who have been forced to leave the city that they serve now have to commute long hours to and from work every day. This has a significant impact on our members’ ability to be active with the union and on our political impact in those cities.
The columns in the Bay Area map shown below illustrates the inverse relationship between where Local 21 members live and where they work.
To address this concern, Feng Kung, Lead Organizer and Sarah “Fred” Sherbum-Zimmer, Housing Coordinator for the SF Housing Rights Committee at Jobs with Justice led an informational session about their work in training union activists and others on housing issues and tenants rights. They provided several resources and much information for our leaders to take back to their workplaces.
The Delegate Assembly concluded with a brief meeting evaluation, which we always use to improve future meetings.