The Three Types of Members

Every now and then I am asked to speak to a group of union leaders or members about the type of communications we do at UCOMM. Some of you reading this may have experienced that, and I hope it was wonderful. In doing communications management for organized labor, we must understand the mindset of who is reading the message and be prudent in crafting your message so that it resonates to all. So basically, there are three different kinds of union members.

The first are my favorites - they are your rabble rousers, your activists. They like picketing, rallying, protesting, flipping cop cars, etc. Every union has them and channeling their fury can be both exhausting yet incredibly effective when managed correctly. The American Union Movement does not have enough of these.

The second type of members are your social butterflies. They like happy hour, bowling, softball, picnics - anything fun. These essential members are key in your constant efforts to build solidarity. They may not like to be aggressive during contract negotiations, or confrontational with hostile employers, but they are more than happy to wear a button and pose for the group picture and even get others to join in as well. They make going to work bearable, and are good to the core. We need more members like them.

The third type of members, well... suck. Selfish, bitter, rotten to the core and lost. They weren't raised right so no matter what you do, or their co-workers do, they travel with a constant black cloud above them. Nobody really wants them around and management may share in this sentiment. It’s unfortunate that Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) regulations require that we keep them around and most good unionist are obligated to help them, but let's be honest - we all wish that member just retired, quits or takes a long one-way vacation.

In understanding your different types of members, you can get complex and creative in your communications. Try to frame your messaging to relate to that first and second type of member, and don't get frustrated when that third type lives up to their stereotype. Too many times we limit what we really want to say because of fear of the third type of member that a good union job was simply wasted on. If you are mindful of this and make efforts to improve your communications while keeping your two best types of members engaged, then you will get results. –  by Kris LaGrange of ucommblog.com.