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Organizing Mission Statement

Building the BMWED for the Future: The Communication Action Team (CAT)

The Challenge BMWED Faces

BMWED takes great pride in its members and the value the Brotherhood brings in representation, wages, benefits, job protections and due process rights. However, surveys, polls and conversations have revealed that BMWED members, especially younger ones, feel disconnected from the union for a variety of reasons. Additionally, the political climate in Congress and in the nation is increasingly hostile to unions – and may get even worse, depending on the outcome of the 2016 elections. As a result, in Dec. 2014, BMWED National Division President Freddie Simpson initiated a process of internal assessment to improve communication within BMWED. Officers and leaders of BMWED held an initial meeting in Novi, Mich. of approximately 25 mostly younger brothers and sisters from various railroads, System Divisions and Federations across the country. There, these members engaged in a candid discussion concerning shortcomings within the union and ways to strengthen the Brotherhood.

The Communication Action Team (CAT) Program

The Dec. 2014 meeting and other outreach revealed a broad consensus that BMWED members want better communication with their elected officers and a deeper engagement with the union at the worksites, in the lodges, and within their System Federations. BMWED recognizes that what members want, namely, effective communication and deeper engagement, is exactly the formula needed to assure that BMWED survives and flourishes, regardless possible challenges from government or employers. To that end, BMWED is developing a plan and a program to strengthen the union: the Communication Action Team (CAT) Program.

Creating and Implementing the CAT Program

President Simpson assembled a group of organizers from within BMWED ranks to create a member communication and engagement program. In addition, other organizers from outside BMWED have been enlisted to assist in this process. These organizers have extensive experience mobilizing workers and creating campaigns to defend members’ rights. Under the direction of BMWED National Division leadership, such a network will be created through organizer visits to worksites across the U.S., with each visiting organizer accompanied by elected officers. The organizers will engage BMWED members at their work reporting locations, hotels, worksites, lodge meetings, local headquarter points, and any other locations where members gather. The CAT Program will also be explained at all BMWED gatherings, nationally and regionally, as well as at local lodge meetings.

The Communcation Action (CAT) Goals:

1) Strengthen communications with members

2) Promote member involvement in the union activities

3) Build visible member support for national bargaining goals

4) Build a culture of solidarity in the workplace to address worksite issues

5) Create a deeper identification among members with their union

Front Line Communicators

During these visits, and in conversation with General and Vice General Chairpersons, organizers will identify potential rank-and-file communicators. Those identified will be known as the Front Line Communicators (FLCs) of the CAT Program. A priority in FLC recruitment will be the active involvement of ethnically diverse members, both Sisters and Brothers, to strengthen the identification of all BMWED members within the union. Worksite FLCs will be trained of the next 12-18 months in techniques of effective 1:1 communications, with the goal of having FLC’s available at most of the BMWED worksites (of over 10 members) across the country. This will require the training of hundreds of BMWED members.

The FLC Training Program

Trainings will also include an explanation of the present challenges of the union, the optimal use of social media, and an understanding of labor and railroad industry history. The trainings will empower the rank-and-file FLCs to carry out the plan with the support of the national organizers, BMWED elected leaders and local officers. Engagement will initially include surveying members for their opinions and contract priorities and gathering contact information for further communications. It will seek member ideas and suggestions and educate them about BMWED, the issues the national union faces, and the issues facing members in other localized geographies and Systems. Most importantly, it is our intent to educate the members as to the value of solidarity within worksites, System Federations, and union-wide.

Linking the CAT to Bargaining and to the Future

This communications and member engagement plan will coincide with national rail contract negotiations and will endeavor to educate members about developments in national collective bargaining. The ambition is to provide a structure for member activity as needed in support of national bargaining and other goals and issues. The network will seek out and build leaders on the ground, learn from members, and send a message to local and national management that BMWED is strong, vigilant and active. As local and regional CAT networks are developed throughout the country, regional and national meetings will be held to build solidarity, strengthen and educate local FLCs and give the members a sense of national BMWED power. As the CAT Program evolves, it will solicit feedback from BMWED leaders and members and make necessary adjustments to become as effective as possible. A successful CAT Program will play a crucial role in a successful future for BMWED.