The strength of any union depends on the degree to which its members support the union and show that support by getting involved in union activities. Convincing members to support the union and participate in its work is one of the central challenges that every local union leader faces. Leaders can strengthen support for their union among new members and increase the degree to which they get involved in the union, through effective new recruit orientation programs.
New recruit orientations are a strategic tool for building union power. High-quality orientations have proven to increase sign ups among new hires and bolster their commitment to the union. Committed members are more likely to stand with the union in the face of tough bargaining fights and political attacks. This means unions can devote more resources to going on offense, instead of wasting precious money and energy shoring up members for defensive fights.
In workplaces where a new recruit is not required to join the union or pay fees, it is critically important that the union makes sure the new recruit understands the significant role they play and how they and their family will benefit from membership. Providing a positive introduction to the union will greatly increase the chances that the new recruit will join the union in the short run and get involved in the long run.
High-quality recruit orientation programs have a positive impact on members’ level of commitment to the union, and the more committed new members are to the union, the more likely they are to participate in union activities.
For recruit programs to have a positive impact, the programs themselves have to be viewed as helpful by new members. Orientations that are sufficiently long to communicate the information new members need to know about the union and that provide high-quality informational material are more helpful than shorter, less informative programs.
First impressions make a lasting difference. At a point in time when many union leaders and activists worry that the next generation of workers do not understand or value the important role the IAFF has played, they can help make sure they do by putting every new hire through a high-quality recruit orientation program. The result will be a higher level of commitment and participation among new members and a stronger union.
Sample Recruit Orientation Powerpoint (In development)
Engage Members for Life: The Power of Recruit Orientation (ALTS 2020 presentation)
Making the Case for Union Membership: The Strategic Value of New Hire Orientations (2017, Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations)
Best Practices In Union New Hire Orientations (2017 Penn State Study on Orientations)