Over the weekend, a dozen SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members joined with more than 100 others to take part in an SEIU-organized training in Boston. The regional Igniting Our Power training was an outgrowth of a national SEIU training earlier this year, and was aimed at developing member leaders and building enthusiasm for getting a livable wage for all workers.
Participants hailed from across the Northeast and included public employees, those who provide in-home care, hospital workers and fast food workers. It was structured to be interactive, with many sessions led by members, including our own Jeremy Dupuis. Also, President Rich Gulla helped kick off the training by telling attendees how he got involved with the union.
“It was an honor to have our president of Local 1984 open up the training,” said member Jonathan Hallet, of the Sununu Youth Services Center. “The training was excellent. It was great to be with our brothers and sisters from all over the region.”
Hallet’s co-worker Corey Dearborn said the energy of the group was high right from the start.
“From the moment we arrived, the energy and atmosphere was electric,” Dearborn said. “To see so many brothers and sisters from all the different locals was amazing.”
Overall, most American workers are barely making more now than they did in the late 1970s, and the lowest wage workers are actually earning less. The Fight for $15 — the SEIU’s nationwide effort to raise the minimum wage for all workers to a livable level — is about re-establishing the wage floor. Many of those in attendance have taken part in the Fight for $15, and some have actually succeeded.
“To hear the stories of how they stood together and fought for higher wages, and eventually won the right to earn $15 an hour was inspiring,” Dearborn said. “It makes me want to work that much harder to help bring minimum wage to $15 an hour in New Hampshire. We need to bring back the middle class, no more of the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.”
Member Jen Hunt of the Judicial Branch, said it was beautiful to see the radiant smiles and feel the energy from those fresh off their victory in the Fight for $15.
When that group started singing “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” Hunt said, “The enthusiasm was infectious and the whole room joined in with the celebration.”
The Fight for $15 fits into what unions have always done: fight for better conditions for everyone.
“Each time we as a union have a win, whether it’s better benefits or wages, it affects more than just our members,” Hunt said. “Better jobs create a better economic environment and the community as a whole benefits by having better schools, hospitals and businesses that can flourish. Through history it has been the unions that have stood firm against unfair wages and work conditions. Strong unions are what brought the standards to what they are today.”
If unions are to continue this work, they need to keep growing. So a component of the training was helping participants how to have conversations with fair share members about upgrading to full membership. One-on-one conversations often prove the most productive, so each participant took a pledge to talk with fair share members about upgrading to full membership.
“This is something I look forward to focusing on,” Hallet said.
Ultimately, though, the goal is not just to get more members, but to get more members active in the union.
“There is strength in numbers, and I look forward to getting more Local 1984 members involved,” Hallet said.