“I knew after the first 10 minutes in class that I was in the right place,” said Roger Young of participating in the Bonnie Ladin Union Skills Course Organizing I at National Labor College.
What he didn’t know is that it would be a life-changing experience for him, not only because of what he learned about organizing, but because of what he would learn about himself.
Starting with an Open Mind, Roger Learns New Tools to Provide Members with a Voice
Roger’s local union was looking for more trained organizers, so they encouraged Roger and another coworker to attend the NLC training.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but my union said that I would be good at it [organizing], so I went with an open mind,” said the Chief Steward for Communications Workers of America Local 1109.
That attitude paid off for the Brooklyn, New York resident, who left the training empowered and enthused to build his union one member at a time by lifting them up and providing them with a voice.
I learned so many tools, not only about the subject of organizing from my instructor, but from my classmates, too.
New Skills Lead to Organizing Wins
Roger took his newly-learned tools back to his local Verizon shop in Brooklyn. After many unsuccessful organizing attempts in years past, Roger, fresh from his organizing class, and his team started initiating campaigns with all the tools he’d learned: “I went back to all the materials [the instructor] had given us, my notes and the feeling that I had a foundation to make this a successful experience.”
They have been successful in organizing several divisions in the cable industry and have won the votes in significant numbers.
Roger learned interpersonal skills, especially the “invaluable” skill of being a good listener.
People may be scared to talk to you; they are in fear of losing their job. Being a good listener allows me to give them a voice.
Class Creates Camaraderie
Being around his classmates, who shared his passion for strengthening unions, was empowering. Roger felt that the environment the instructor created allowed for everyone to get to know each other and she encouraged the camaraderie that Roger continues to rely on today.
In fact, even now, Roger and his former classmates communicate through an online forum to keep in touch with one another even though they live across the U.S. and South America.
Why was the class so successful? Roger credits instructor Robyn Cavanagh with leveling the playing field and getting everyone motivated.
“She [the instructor] had a great approach and the way she set up the class allowed for everyone to participate,” said Roger. She connected the class participant’s levels of experience and backgrounds to create an environment in which he could interact with like-minded people and learn about other trades.
Not only did we spend our class times together, but we also socialized with each other outside of the training. I have made friendships that I expect to have for a long time.
Roger continues to use the materials he received in the class along with his notes each time they work on a campaign.
“Each instructor provided me with invaluable experience,” said Roger of the guest instructors. “They would say, ‘You will experience this out in the field.’ and sure enough, everything they spoke of I encountered.”
This was especially true when the class participants were involved in the “house call” simulations where they go door-to-door organizing for their unions. The teams of students were composed so thoughtfully that there was the opportunity to work with everyone in class. Additionally, you were given a chance to experience all of the different “real-life” scenarios that one faces when recruiting for a union campaign.
It’s Your Turn!
“NLC is such a great place and a wonderful place to get educated,” said Roger.
He is sharing his experience in the hopes that more members and leaders become trained organizers so “we can turn this around again!” said Roger.
If you’re ready to turn your local around, attend a Bonnie Ladin Union Skills Class to get the motivation and training you need to be a success.