The SMART Rapid Response Protocol: Member engagement

May 30, 2024

As with everything our union does, there will be members who do not agree with the commitment to fostering an inclusive environment. They may be misinformed about what the commitment entails, misled by figures in the media who disagree with the commitment, or genuinely concerned about what all of this could mean for them and their career. You will not convince all of your members that this work is worth doing, but by following a few simple messaging practices, you can increase your chances of convincing the skeptics in your ranks:

1. This is fundamentally about respect. Most members would agree that all workers deserve to be treated with respect and that no worker should have their opportunities limited because of a preconceived notion about who they are or what they are capable of. But like it or not, we all walk around with a lot of unchecked biases. Adopting these practices and policies will help each of us keep those biases in check and, by extension, more meaningfully respect one another.

2. This is not about shaming members. Some members may feel that the commitment to building an inclusive environment is an attack on who they are, what they believe in or where they come from. There is a lot of media out there that advances this line, but it could not be further from the truth. This work is about ensuring that all members feel welcome and have a place in our union. It is about building solidarity between workers and forging a stronger union.

3. Recruiting and retaining a diverse membership is strategic. Everybody knows the statistics about the massive shortage in skilled construction workers. While that shortage may be good for labor in the short term, in the long term our union needs to recruit and retain more skilled construction workers to thrive and grow. Future skilled construction workers will work the hours that fund each of our retirements, and the simple fact is that those future, potential members are more likely to be women and/or people of color than ever before. Tolerating discrimination and harassment undermines our solidarity.

4. Those we do not welcome will end up as our competition. If those future members do not feel accepted by our union, then they will seek other careers, work nonunion or join other building trades unions, and SMART will only be weaker for it. They will also share their negative experience with SMART with other nonunion workers or other building trades unions, which will hinder our organizing efforts.