Making the Case for Union Membership: The Strategic Value of New Hire Orientations

Source: Michael Wasser, Jobs With Justice Education Fund, September 2016

New hire orientations are a strategic tool for building union power. High-quality orientations have proven to increase sign ups among new hires and bolster their commitment to the union. Committed members are more likely to stand with the union in the face of tough bargaining fights and political attacks. that means unions can devote more resources to going on offense, instead of wasting precious money and energy shoring up members for defensive fights. This guide offers simple, practical ways that unions can develop and enhance their orientations for new bargaining unit members.

The best practices presented here are drawn from relevant social science research, an electronic survey of 49 unions, interviews with officers and staff responsible for their unions’ orientation programs, content analysis of union welcome packets, and observations of existing orientation programs.

Union officers and staff understandably may feel that they are stretched thin, without time to focus on developing or improving an orientation program. But an effective orientation program can have a lasting and outsized impact on unions’ future strength. In that way, high-quality orientations will deliver a valuable return for unions on the modest investment required to establish, administer, or even simply upgrade their programs. Indeed, new hire orientations and follow-up are a form of organizing—the core strength of America’s unions. Be willing to transform and experiment, and the advice in this guide can help your union build a stronger, more committed membership that’s ready to take on the next big fight….