What do we mean by “Rank-and-File” unionism?

The term “rank-and-file” is defined as “those who form the major portion of any group or organization, excluding the leaders and officers.” In UE, we use the term “rank-and-file unionism” to describe how our union operates: it simply means it’s the members who run our union … in a democratic and collective manner. The members set the policies of the union and make all of the decisions of importance that affect their union.

The most important thing to know about your union is that YOU are the union and The Members Run This Union.  A union is only as strong, effective and powerful as the members who participate in its operation, causes, and activities.

You can best exercise that power by being informed, involved and active in your union.

Every member can take a number of simple steps to make your union a more powerful and effective vehicle for advancing your interests and the interests of your co-workers. These steps include:

  • Go to your union leadership if you have a question. If you are unclear about what your union is doing to address an issue, go to one of your elected statewide officer, chapter officers, or a steward and ask them. The names of your leaders are posted on our website at uelocal170.org.
  • Attend meetings. If you cannot make a meeting, send a co-worker from your workplace whom you trust to express your views and help you stay informed.
  • Read newsletters, e-mails, etc.: Local 170 has stepped up efforts through the production of our monthly newsletter, e-mail blasts, SMS blasts and social media to keep members informed of ongoing issues. Utilize these materials and options so you know what is going on.
  • Participate in and vote in the elections of officers. Local 170 has by-laws that dictate a process for holding elections of its leadership. Statewide elections are held biennially and chapter elections are held annually. If you have the time, run for an office. If you don’t have time, learn about who is running. If you know of a member or coworker who shares your views and is a strong leader, encourage them to run for office or be a steward.
  • Participate in union activities.  As Local 170 does its work on your behalf, it will engage our membership in a number of activities; including leafleting, member surveys, petition drives, picketing, and trainings if needed. The success of all of these activities depends on broad participation by our membership. If your union is engaged in an activity, participate. Remember the Union is you!
  • Be politically informed and involved. You should stay tuned in to state issues affecting your jobs and livelihoods. Furthermore, you should develop and maintain a relationship with your state legislators by e-mails and phone calls. Moreover, invite legislators to chapter meetings so you can raise concerns and ask questions.
  • Finally, you are the union, and by engaging in some or all of these activities you can guarantee that the union is successful in representing your interests.

Jamie Beaton,

President, Local 170