Our National Union represents thousands of utility workers in the electric, gas, and water industries with a diverse workforce that includes physical and clerical classifications. While this is the norm that we have grown accustomed to, many now say that DATA is becoming the newest utility. With that in mind, the National Office is excited to introduce a new database, the UnionAXS system, that will improve efficiencies, enhance our communication methods, and make doing business easier.
Change brings opportunity
As stated in earlier communications, as we build the bridge for new utility workers and our upcoming leadership, we recognize that there is a generational and technological change in how we learn and communicate. We, as utility workers, recognize that change is inevitable and can be quite an opportunity for improvement. Change and opportunity must also embrace inclusion and communication, vital to remain viable and powerful in today’s work environment.
We have been actively engaging our membership, as well as local and national leadership, to find the best ways to communicate, educate, and share information. Your suggestions have been well received, helpful, and insightful. UWUA President Langford has repeatedly stated that we need an all-inclusive energy policy regarding the use of coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, wind, and solar power. Similarly, we need an all-inclusive plan regarding communication with our membership. It is a fact that participation at monthly union meetings has declined while the thirst for information via social media and the internet has risen. Many of our members want to maintain the quarterly Utility Worker magazine while others prefer the e-blast or the mobile App. We will do all three. However, we need to do more.
Now and then, it is important to remind ourselves of the fundamental importance of labor unions. Unions are strength. To best harness our collective power, unions must have the information necessary to equip our leadership and membership with the tools needed to accomplish such core missions as negotiating rights and benefits, advancing member interests with elected officials, and promoting safe and healthy workplaces. A major feature of the new database is mass communication abilities that can reach all, or a select group, of UWUA members depending on the issue.
For example, as stewards of the membership’s contributions to the union’s COPE Fund, it is critical that the National Union have complete, accurate data regarding our members in order to best hold their elected government officials accountable. Calibrating political giving at all levels – federal, state, and local – requires deep knowledge as to who our members are, where they are working, and in what industries, in order to know who their respective elected officials are and, more importantly, to gauge whether those officials – of whatever political persuasion – are, or are not, looking out for their best interests.
Maximizing our power
Further, to maximize the union’s political leverage through issue advocacy by the members themselves, it will also be possible to provide the membership with high quality information, to direct them towards opportunities for positive advocacy, and to alert them of attacks on their interests. Such coordinated efforts are only possible, however, if the National possesses a deep database of contact information for the membership in order to reach them with educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and action alerts. These types of ‘rapid response’ efforts do not simply happen – they must be built using comprehensive knowledge of the union’s membership in order to empower the members to take their own actions in concert with one another.
While still a work in progress, the UnionAXS database that we have built includes the following information: local-specific information, bylaws, member information, employer identification, job site locations, utility sector identification, contracts, history of wage increases, and up to date local officer information. In the future, it will be possible to quickly share results and strategies from bargaining tables all over the country so that all locals can benefit from lessons learned elsewhere. In the unfortunate event of accidents or risks to safety and health being identified, we will be able to alert members everywhere to be on the lookout for similar hazards in their workplaces. The core concept – that we are more powerful working together – is what makes trade unionism successful.