It doesn’t matter how well funded, or how large or small the lodge is; paying attention to the opinions of the membership is a low-cost, high-impact way to make just about everything run better.
Skipping customer-centric strategies is not a good idea, but it is understandable; labor unions do not have “customers” per se. Local lodges really don’t sell any products in the traditional sense. Moreover, members are not purchasing a service; “someone else” is not getting paid to lobby for union members, who are always expected to fight for their own rights. Nevertheless, the main mission of a local is to represent its members, and that means that a lodge needs to spend time figuring out how to best reflect the needs and priorities of the membership.
In other words, the members should still be thought of as customers, and keeping them happy is incredibly important. Here’s why.
- Nothing gets done without member support – Everything that happens at a labor union happens because someone took the time to actually do it. Knowing what the members want is the key to knowing what projects are possible, and which projects are priorities.
- The members ARE the organization – The members are literally the union; and if they are happy and active, then the union is happy and active. Unions rely on the generosity of individuals to give their time, and donate their skills and experience. These things replace the role of profits (which comes from customers) in an organization such a local lodge.
- The union cannot exist without active members – Just as a business cannot exist without customers, a union depends on attracting volunteerism for its very survival. Without customers, a business cannot produce the funds it needs to attract more customers. Similarly, without engaged activists, a union cannot produce the achievements it needs to attract more engaged activists.
Local union officers need to think of rank and file union members in the same way that businesses think about customers. This will help the officers to troubleshoot problems quickly, develop a tradition of respect, and maintain an agile organization that can adapt and innovate constantly. The members are the union, and unions are the members. The membership is the single most important part of the story of our union, and how they interact with other union members will determine how that story is told. If a union can create an environment that generates effective members that do important things, then the union itself will be effective and will do important things.
All that depends on finding out what the members want - just like a business would find out what customers want. That is the key to making sure that they stay the central focus of everything that the union does.
By the way, Local 811 is conducting an ongoing Satisfaction Survey for all members. To participate, please follow the link below.