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Sign new employees up as members on their first day

September 22, 2021

'It’s easier to sign a new employee up on their first day.'

When welcoming new hires into workplaces, it’s important for union locals and their members to remember an old saying: You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
That was the message from veteran SEIU organizers at a Local 888 workshop on “Union Security” — building workers’ power and member engagement. The focus on new hires has become more important in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus case of 2018, which targeted public employees.
“It’s easier to sign a new employee up on their first day,” said Amber Cano-Martin, an SEIU educator. “We should plant the seeds of engagement — and educate the new members before the anti-union groups get ahold of them.”
“On someone’s first day, they’re a blank slate,” said Cano-Martin. “They want to fit in and feel welcome. The longer they’re on the job, the more they may get frustrated — or bored.”
In the Janus decision, the conservative high court overturned decades of legal precedent. The court ruled that public sector unions could not require those employees who do not become members to pay “fair share,” or agency, fees.
Now, the watchwords for signing up new members need to be: Together we rise! Employers know when a union is weak and workers have not signed up.
“Our strength is in our members — and the number of members we have,” said Mike Foster, the public sector coordinator for Massachusetts-based SEIU Local 509. He said that 509’s approach is to have multiple contacts with new hires.
Right off the bat, union members provide a Local 509 orientation. The new hire is presented with a form that has three signature lines — one for membership and the others for paying dues and donating to the local’s Committee on Political Action.
In late 2019, Massachusetts labor unions celebrated a legislative victory for collective bargaining rights. The new law aids public sector unions in the “open shop” environment created by the Janus decision.
For one, the law allows public sector unions to recover some of the costs associated with representing nonunion employees, known as “free riders.” And it gives unions access to public employee contact information, such as emails.
Crucially, the law requires public employers to give union leaders time to provide orientations for new hires, during work hours and in the workplace. Contract language can expand on those provisions. For a full article on the topic, see