A chapter on union organizing from the book, "Reaching Higher" by Richard Bensinger and Virginia Diamond.
Union organizing committee members will come across all different kinds of opinions during the campaign. Some people will feel strongly that a union would be a good thing. Other people will feel just as strongly that a union could be a bad thing. As the saying goes, people can disagree without being disagreeable.
Nowhere is it more important to be respectful and polite to people who disagree with you than when you are campaigning for a union.
Here are some important reasons to remain on good terms with people, regardless of their opinions:
These are people you will continue to work with, so why make things unpleasant?
If you remain friendly and avoid polarizing the situation, people will feel free to change their minds later.
If the union wins, you will want to encourage the involvement of anti-union employees to have a stronger, more unified workforce to achieve the goals of all employees.
When a union campaign becomes too divisive, some people who are undecided turn against the union because of the tension and divisiveness. Raising tension is sometimes a goal of the employer. Therefore, it's your job as a committee member to reduce tensions and maintain a civil and respectful atmosphere.
Always remember that if you stay on good terms, someone who's against the union may change their mind as the campaign gains momentum, conditions at work continue to deteriorate or an influential worker becomes a card signer.
This is not to say that you should not express your own opinions vigorously. Being passionate in your beliefs is one thing; being strident and argumentative is another.
There's one more reason to be respectful, thoughtful and kind to people who disagree with you about the union. It's just the right way to be in life. Being a good person is its own reward.
Richard Bensinger and Virginia Diamond have recently launched the Inside Organizer School, a dynamic and inspiring program that educates activists on how to organize a union at a nonunion workplace. Find out more here.