Eugene shares its experience with blitz

The fact it had just completed its own membership blitz a few days earlier earned Eugene Chapter 1 a special spot on Saturday’s agenda of the Leadership Summit.

Eugene Chapter 1 President Ray Martin shares his chapter’s recent experience conducting a membership drive to attendees as Secretary Sheila Waggoner, far left, and Vice President-Treasurer Diana McElhinney look on.

One day after he had called on all OSEA chapters to conduct at least one membership drive this year, OSEA President Tim Stoelb invited Eugene President Ray Martin to talk about the chapter’s recent experience signing up nonmembers.

Martin — joined on stage by Vice President-Treasurer Diana McElhinney and Secretary Sheila Waggoner — began his remarks by noting that the summit was taking place in Eugene, the birthplace of OSEA.

“I hope you get an opportunity while you are here to take a moment to feel the history,” Martin told summit attendees. “Eighty years ago, people came together to do pretty much exactly what we are here to do this weekend — set the course for our future. There are 141 chapters right now … but all of us are descendants of Chapter 1, and that is really important to us in Eugene.”

Prior to coming on stage, Martin had been asked a series of questions about the membership blitz that he used to structure his prepared remarks. What follows are excerpts of those remarks presented in a question-and-answer format:

What were you able to accomplish with a two-day membership drive?

“After two days of ‘getting blitzed,’ we have 119 newly-signed members. We are very happy about that, of course. These are great statistics, but we want to make sure they’re more than just good-looking numbers on a spreadsheet. … This is less of a signature gathering drive that we are all about to go on and more of a hearts-and-minds drive.”

Did your volunteers feel prepared?

“We had some people on our membership drive who have done these types of events (before), and we had some where this was their first real ‘union experience.’ And of course, people are always reluctant if they are not sure what they are getting into. So I can tell you, we had a few people who went from ‘what exactly is it I am supposed to be doing?’ to being massively over-trained in a matter of minutes.

“That is something we have been very grateful for — the trainings we’ve (received from OSEA). We were able to say, ‘OK, that is a LOT of information. It may not all roll off your tongue immediately. Use it where you can, but do NOT forget to just be yourself when you go out there.’”

What was it like to work with OSEA field staff?

“Something I have made a really big deal of since I became president in July is what I have called ‘humanizing the acronym.’ Most of us … know OSEA staff. But to a lot of our members OSEA is maybe just this giant acronym sitting in Salem. What does it do? What does OSEA do for us?

“To have 11 OSEA staff members come down to join us for this event was a huge step toward humanizing the acronym. Right now in Chapter 1, we do not really have a field rep, an organizer and a zone director. We have Tyler, Elissa and Teri. It’s a huge difference; it means everything. Our members know them. They are part of our chapter.

“Ten days ago I had never met (Organizer) Lesly Muñoz. Now we are road trip buddies. … We packed a lunch on a drizzly October morning … and hit the road. We talked and we shared and we listened. Now we completely know we are in this together.”

What do you believe are the short-term benefits of conducting a membership drive?

“(That’s) an interesting question. On these site visits, we sit in break rooms. Who comes into break rooms? Classified employees, of course, but also … teachers come into the break room. We don’t represent teachers, of course, but I don’t really care about that. We work with teachers all day, every day. … We are all in this together … so our relationship with our teachers is growing exponentially just by being at sites to visit with anyone and everyone.

“The president of the teacher’s union in our district called me this week. (We) each speak at our school board meetings separately. But he called to ask if I wanted to … speak together with one voice to our school board about an issue we feel strongly about. … (So, we did) and we think it was received very well. … We are now working closely with our teachers.”

What would you do differently in your next membership drive?

“The days were LONG. I think our organizers have some great ideas for where we can better schedule to make full use of our time. But that said, we should not cut out any time from our debrief sessions.

“Those debrief sessions are essential, because that is the chance for everyone to come together and share their stories — which is really what it is all about. Members get to visit sites they’ve never been to before, and they get to really hear some new stories. It is immensely important to come back together and have a chance to share those stories.”

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