Dear Sparky: We just had our big membership meeting and maybe five people showed up. And there wasn’t even a snow storm to blame it on! We have a small group of people who volunteer for everything, but beyond that, forget about it. Is there anything we can do to get more folks involved or is it just a lost cause?
Signed, Despondent in Dracut
Dear Despondent: Did you know that there are people who love going to meetings? While I’ve never come upon a member of this elusive species, they are said to exist… However, there are a few things you can do that might boost attendance at your next meeting, say up to 8 (hey, you’ve got to start somewhere).
• Keep it short
Often what your colleagues are trying to avoid isn’t a meeting—but a really LONG meeting, with a lot of droning committee reports. (Did I actually fall asleep while typing that???) Instead of one big meeting where you address every topic under the sun, try some mini-meetings where you take up specific issues.
• Small is beautiful
When a new member does show up, it can be tempting to try to corner him or her into taking on some big task—like running for chapter chair or heading up the bargaining committee. Avoid that temptation at any cost! Instead, start by identifying what your members are good at or like to do and see if you can translate that into something the chapter needs.
• Speak like a human person
For new members, even the way union leaders talk can seem off-putting. Acronyms and “alphabet soup” can sound like a foreign language to the uninitiated. So be sure to provide translation and speak like a human person whenever possible.
• Food and fun
Bottom line: meetings just aren’t fun no matter what kind of topping is on the pizza. So why not try bringing your members together for something that is fun? And if all goes well, you can corner the new guy and try to talk him into being a shop steward…
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