Secretary-Treasurer’s Report – Data Drives Membership Engagement and Power!

As UWUA members, gas, electric, and water are the utilities in our business. However, with today’s technology, communication and social media, is ‘data’ the new utility? Is it possible that as we look ahead, data is the world’s most valuable resource?

Many companies across the country have made the gathering of data a major focus for communication, education, advertising and, yes, propaganda.

Employers have had this data for years and often use it to communicate with their employees — our members — spreading their views, interpretations, or ideals. Often times they use our membership data to spread falsehoods during contract negotiations or workplace disputes.

Information is power

As utility workers we understand the power of communication. For our organization to thrive and be successful we need an informed and educated membership.

It is in this spirit that, at the UWUA’s 31st Constitutional Convention this summer, delegates voted to amend Article VI, Section 9 of the UWUA Constitution to require local unions, regional boards and joint councils to submit an accurate list of names and addresses of their members to the National Union along with monthly per capita payments.

It is well established under the National Labor Relations Act and state labor laws that unions are entitled to the names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, ages, seniority dates, work classifications and equal employment opportunity data such as statistical data on minority groups and female employees.

In order to comply with the UWUA Constitutional requirements and to ensure that UWUA affiliates and the National Union have the bargaining unit employee information necessary to educate, communicate, and activate our membership on issues vital to our union the National will be requesting all such information from our locals on a monthly basis.

Earlier this fall, our office sent out a packet of information on this new requirement to all our locals, together with guidance and templates as to how to format the data to send to the National, and, if necessary, how to go about requesting the information from employers if a local does not maintain membership data.

Over the past few years, our national leadership and staff have addressed locals and members in many forums as to the importance of fully understanding the workforces the UWUA represents.  Knowing where people are located, the trades and industries in which they are engaged, their numbers and demographics, all of this builds up a picture as to who the UWUA really is, what their needs are, what’s taking place in their economic sectors, what information would best serve them, and how their voice can best be lifted up to those in power who need to hear their perspective. Simply put with this basic information, the National can much more effectively communicate with you, advocate for you, and represent you.

Speaking with one voice

Last July, the Convention delegates took action to ensure our union can accomplish these goals. By learning as much as possible about each other, our ability to take collective action, to speak with one voice, and to lift one another up will be magnified many times over. The oldest adage in organized labor is that strength lies in unity but, before people can unite, they must first be introduced.

The National stands ready to assist all our locals in meeting the new Constitutional requirements to provide the data necessary to build a complete picture of our union. While data may well be the world’s new most valuable resource, we understand that first it must be gathered, studied, and understood. Our aim is to make sure that, together, we can build UWUA power by helping everyone take the steps to strengthen our union for the road ahead.