A couple weeks ago, the Local 21 San Francisco office had a new visitor – who brought 24 new membership cards. San Leandro chapter member and Lead Plant Operator at the City’s Water Pollution Control Plant Howard Cin decided to stop by the office to drop off the fruits of his – voluntary – labor: to sign up as many new members possible. His goal: 100% membership in the San Leandro chapter.
Howard was inspired at the last Delegate Assembly in May to bump up his chapter’s membership. At the DA, he noticed that only 93% of San Leandro’s city workers had signed up. “I thought, we could do better than that,” Howard said, and off he went on a mission to sign up as many members in his jurisdiction as possible.
Howard, who works the night shift, has many reasons why he is signing up new L21 members in his spare time, not to say the least of which his union background. Although he has only been working for the city of San Leandro for the past 16 months, Howard has been a long-time union member for the past 27 years, from the Teamsters to the SEIU.
Before setting out on his recruitment rounds, Howard first obtained a list of the fee payers in his chapter and L21 members who never turned in cards. With the help of other city employees, he figured out which public agencies had lower membership rates and targeted those. Sometimes accompanied by his 11-year-old daughter on summer break from school, he visited City Hall, his workplace, and other public agencies in San Leandro to sign people up.
“I originally thought people wouldn’t sign up because they were either anti-union or due to other personal (religious) beliefs. But eventually, I found out that for most of them, it was because they fell through the cracks,” he said.
What he likes most about his activism is talking to new people and convincing them of the importance of utilizing the union they support with their dues.
“We are the union,” he said. “People tend to think it’s us and there’s the union, but we are the ones that make up the union.”
The San Leandro city worker particularly wants to hone in on employee issues as bargaining heats up in San Leandro. Howard not only serves as Treasurer of his L21 San Leandro Chapter, where he conducts equity studies and salary surveys to help better capture members’ needs in the contract negotiation process, but also sits on the bargaining team.
The first Local 21 bargaining session started on Monday, July 5. One of the points in the contract Howard hopes will be revisited is an increase in the salary to benefits ratio, since the raise members received in the last contract is mostly going to PERS contributions, resulting in only a 2% net increase in take-home pay over a three-year period.
“Now that Measure HH has passed and the economy is doing better, we hope for a fair contract that helps all members,” he said, referring to an infrastructure-improvement sales tax bill that passed in San Leandro last November.
While he is glad we at Local 21 are highlighting his efforts to grow the San Leandro membership, Howard cautions that he is not doing this for his own publicity, but rather, to inspire other members to do the same.
“In order to achieve gains, people need to take responsibility,” Howard said. “The union is only what we make it.” Currently, the San Leandro chapter of 270 members is up to 99.7%. Howard wants to put San Leandro on par with the smaller chapters and get it at 100% by the next L21 Delegate Assembly in October. “I encourage people to get involved in the union, whatever their comfort level,” Howard said.