Ahead of Labor Day, Secretary Marty Walsh and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler hosted a virtual roundtable on collective bargaining and organizing in America. We asked AFL-CIO member Anders Bloomquist to share his experience with organizing and how his union has supported him.
What made you and your coworkers want to organize?
Several of us had been talking about it for a number of months, but ultimately it was a combination of the pandemic, the George Floyd protests, and recognizing the lack of internal structures around things like discipline. Initially, no one was opposed, but some people were uncertain. By the time we announced to management, over 80% of the workers were on board.
What has your experience with organizing and collective bargaining been like?
It has been respectful. There have certainly been points of contention, but we’ve found that we were able to establish a level of mutual respect with management that both sides have worked to maintain. We just finished our collective bargaining agreement and are extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished.
How has your union supported you?
UNITE HERE! Local 17 has been wonderful. First, the organizing committee received lots of effective guidance and support. Then, despite an overwhelming majority of the Local’s members being out of work, the leadership team was willing to take a chance on a handful of smaller units at our workplace and the others organizing in the area.
Over 60 million Americans say they would join a union if they could. What would you say to someone who asked you whether they should organize a union at their workplace?
I won’t say it’s quick or effortless, but it’s less intimidating than you may think. The ability to get to know people, cultivate relationships of trust and mutual respect, then ask them to take a step with you are all basic steps in the process. If you do these things already then you are ready to begin building. There are of course many more specifics, but those are some of the core fundamentals.