by Caitlin Rollo
This summer the Keene Education Association participated in the NEA Education Summer program. Through this grant program from NEA – and in partnership with NEA-NH, the KEA participated in the six week program by having six part-time member organizers (each working 5-10 hours a week) out in the field engaging new hires, potential members, and their current membership using new and creative techniques. The goal of this work is to not only grow their membership by twenty-four new members, but create a sense of community within their membership as they return to school without a contract and begin negotiations process.
During the first week, member organizers were educated on unionism 101, created a one page handout highlighting the benefits of their local association, mapped their entire bargaining unit and began planning a family friendly Back to School Social at a local swimming hole. The Team KEA Friday morning check-in’s are family friendly, energizing and a place where they have all grown as union organizers. A tweet from NEA-NH’s President Megan Tuttle captures this moment perfectly.
Member organizers have been encouraged to slow down the pace so as to develop relationships with potential members – and to cultivate the culture of belonging within the KEA. Just last week, a member organizer was engaging a current member around collecting a KEA Member Profile. The member wasn’t comfortable in personally completing the profile, rather wanted to be part of a bigger action that would inspire and engage other members in other buildings. From that conversation – at a local playground – overnight they were able to organize other members at Keene High School to engage in their version of the Kiki challenge. Click here to see their KEA Keene High School Kiki challenge video.
All incoming new hires received an email from a member organizer welcoming them to the district. Potential members in the bargaining unit were engaged and the entire membership was contacted around the August Back to School Social by email, personal texting, FB messaging and the texting app Hustle. To date, not only has the KEA reached their goal of twenty-four new members – but they have exceeded all expectations! They are currently at fifty new members since June – and not stopping.
When our members organizers were asked what it was like being part of this program, here is what they said:
“It was fun, professional, and showed organized recruiting will attract members. Promoting the brand (T-shirt’s, social media, email, text) shows people the Union means business.” Eric Olderstein, KEA VP of Membership
“This summer work was amazing! I learned so much and feel proud to be an active member of our union! All that we did had better prepared me to help my fellow colleagues and better educate and support them in a multitude of ways.” Sara Snowling, KEA member organizer
“My work with the NEA and the KEA over the summer has been both productive and personally meaningful as It has made a positive impact to support Educators in Keene. Bill Gillard, our new KEA president, has inspired a great amount of support and positivity in the Keene School District. He has put in many hours over the past few months to make sure that our membership has grown in solidarity and been defended against unjust actions. He has actually gone well beyond this…even while celebrating the birth of his third child. I cannot thank Caitlin Rollo enough for her support this summer, as well as Eric Olderstein, the KEA VP of Membership. As Eric says, “The Union starts with U” and we showed that with our work this summer.” Nate Wilder, KEA Grievance Chair
“I learned that advocating for your rights as an educator, with a collective, strong, cohesive team is incredibly empowering and essential to the continued success and longevity of teachers’ careers (which inadvertently creates a stronger school, stronger students, and a healthier and positive environment for all).” Melanie Fedorowicz, KEA member organizer