Never Underestimate a Well-Run Ratification Campaign

When AFSCME wins a good contract, the first thing members and non-members usually look for is the pay raise the union was able to negotiate. But what if pay is not something the union can bargain over? Will non-members still have a reason to fill out a membership card?

If you communicate throughout the process and put together a strong ratification campaign, like the members of AFSCME Florida’s Local 1328 and Local 1781 recently did, the answer is yes.

And yes to the tune of 33 new members in just a couple of days in North Florida.

Members sat down to bargain with management at University of Florida Health Jacksonville with uncertainty around health care funding because of the disastrous Republican health care bill in Congress and, on the state level, due to Gov. Rick Scott’s continued attacks on quality public health programs.

“It was a mutual decision to take any negotiations around pay off the table for now and come back to it in November,” said Lorenzo Sheppard, a maintenance mechanic and president of Local 1328.

So, instead, the negotiations centered on insurance benefits and, in this, members were able block any increase in the employee cost for medical, vision and dental insurance. They also will now be allowed to have virtual doctor visits covered by their plan.

“That uncertainty around health care and what our families may be facing in a year or two, we knew we needed to hold the line and make sure we secured some stability,” said Sheppard.

Leading up to the negotiations, the bargaining team had been delivering a simple but powerful message to their coworkers: We are stronger at the table when we have more members united in our locals. That message and constant updates on the negotiations were delivered through flyers and, most importantly, one-on-one conversations.

“People were looking to see if we could deliver on our promise of a strong contract even without any discussion of pay on the table. So when we brought back peace of mind, that was something well worth signing a membership card,” Sheppard said.

He added that members are taking the lessons they learned into the next round of negotiations, when the focus will be on economic issues. This time, AFSCME’s voice at the table will be even stronger thanks to a bigger and more united union. And that’s the AFSCME difference in action.