Building Union Engagement Through UWUA Committees

National President, James Slevin

Earlier this year, I contacted local officers regarding UWUA’s five committees: Veterans Committee, Women’s Caucus, Young Workers Initiative Committee, Safety Committee and Human Rights Committee. Following a planning meeting in December last year, UWUA’s officers and I were looking for ways to reinvigorate and lift up our committees’ work. One of the ways we were looking to do this was through bringing new members into the fold.

The work these committees do is very important. Committees are a critical communication channel to connect members to the National Union. Committees help to carry out the union’s work. They are a way for members to engage with the union, stay involved, and network across the organization.

Committees are also critically valuable to the membership. I strongly encourage local unions to form these committees if you don’t already have them. If you do have them, I urge you to think about finding new ways to engage with them and put them to work for your local union.

A few weeks ago, representatives from UWUA’s five committees gathered in Pittsburgh to strategize new ways to engage with each other on activities moving forward. These were productive and invigorating conversations, and I look forward to seeing and hearing more from UWUA’s committees in the coming months.

For those of you who attended a regional conference in 2022, you had the chance to hear and see the committees take center stage and showcase the important work they’re doing. Here are a few examples.

Our Veterans Committee is doing important, life-saving work. Veterans Committee members are trained and ready to respond to mental health emergencies their veteran siblings experience. They’ve performed several effective interventions recently.

For a long time, our Human Rights Committee benefitted from Nate Waters’ strong leadership, convening members to have difficult conversations about how misconceptions threaten to pit us against one another. That committee will now benefit from Local 1-2’s Darryl Taylor’s leadership as he has stepped up to chair the committee.

Safety Committee members represent every industry across our union. Through sharing safety best practices and other industry insights, they are undoubtedly preventing injuries and saving lives.

The Women’s Caucus is growing the next generation of women leaders across our union. The Women’s Caucus has succeeded in promoting the work our women members are doing across our union and making sure they are all well-represented through the yearly calendar initiative, for example. They also support our women members’ efforts to network and build leadership skills.

Last but certainly not least, the Young Workers Initiative Committee offers space for our younger members to develop and flex their leadership capabilities, so they’re prepared to step into union leadership roles down the line.

As local officers, it’s important for you to set expectations of your members that they should get involved in your local’s committee work. Committees create a ladder of engagement for the union that set you and your fellow members up for success leading up to contract bargaining, organizing, contract disputes, can help grow work-life satisfaction and much more.

As a member if you’re interested in getting involved in committee work, reach out, ask questions, and see what it takes to start to get involved. I know so many of us are busy managing work and family schedules, but it can be tremendously rewarding work that will pay off.

Like so many things in life and work, you get out what you put in. Consider contributing more to your union family. What you might get in return might surprise you in the best way possible.