Let’s Talk: ‘Making things better for everyone around us’
By Gail Kablau
I have spent a lot of time over the years representing members – as a Board representative, as a Building representative, in disciplinary meetings, through grievances, attending School Board meetings, and on the Local, Regional, and State level. I don’t know if this has been your experience, but I feel that even though processes may be different in dealing with School Districts, due to the Act 10 legislation, one thing hasn’t changed. The lack of understanding that individual staff members have about their responsibilities as an employee, and as a member of the Union. I find this to be more true of support staff than anyone else.
It’s hard for me to understand why employees don’t educate themselves on what’s in their employee handbook, or try to learn more about what they can do to get involved in their Local union. Your handbook dictates how you must behave in order to be an employee in good standing. Getting involved in your Local union is how you help to move important initiatives, legislation, and school policy forward. But many members just seem content that Union officials are taking the time to learn those things, and only when trouble arises do they make the necessary effort to be a part of the process – when it affects them personally.
Sometimes I get asked the same question from the same member, over and over again, because they know that I know the answer, and it’s easier to contact me than it is to look up the information they need. Some would argue that’s what being a representative is all about. I would argue that my job as a Union leader is to educate them on how to do things on their own. Where is the line?
The line for me is this – I got involved in the Union to learn more about how it supported me and to find out what my dues dollars were paying for. Post Act-10, I continued to pay my dues, because I learned through my involvement in the Union that having a collective voice is more powerful than going it alone. If you are relying on others to do the work for you, then you are not a part of the process. And while dues dollars do pay for you to receive representation when things go awry, gaining the knowledge about how things work by getting involved in the union, can help to keep things from going awry in the first place.
One of my favorite quotes is from Helen Keller, who said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Each one of us can make a difference if we speak up and reach out, but when we do it together it gives us the strength and power to affect more widespread change.
I look at it this way. I can either make things better around me, or I can be a part of making things better for everyone around me.
Want to know more about how to get more involved in your Union and be a part of that collective voice?
Contact Gail Kablau at: firstname.lastname@example.org