Become A CAT
Our work at the University of Minnesota is vital to its success. We are everywhere. In order to make the gains that we need in our contract negotiations all of us need to be involved. The key to carrying out a successful contract campaign is an active member base that is involved from the beginning and stays involved until a settlement is reached. A strong union is one that defends the contract and involves its members in the fight to get the best contract and build the union.
We want a strong contract with a better wage, in short, a livable wage job. The only way we can achieve this is to grow stronger as a union and mobilize ourselves to fight for what is rightfully ours: dignity on the job, livable wages, a career path, and recognition for the work we do. We need to continue to build the union member by member, one step at a time.
Our internal organizing structure helps us mobilize, educate and protect our members. If the structure is strong, and involves the members in the day-to-day work of the union, then we all are strong.
What are CATs?
Campus Action Team members (or CATs) are activist members for the union, local 3800, in buildings throughout the University system. They work in every conceivable job classification and department that the University has. They shape the union every day in our workplace.
CATs are people who talk with fee payers and union members in and around their departments. CATs are union activists on floors and in cubes who help carry out the Contract Campaigns before and during contract negotiations.
What do CATs have to do?
Most importantly, being a CAT requires just a small commitment of time and energy. Wearing a union button one day can help. Talking to a new employee and telling them about the union can help on another day. These are examples of simple things you can do that will help build our union. If every member in the union spent just 30 minutes a week on union activities, we would be a much stronger force. The CAT network is about communication. You hear from the organizer or an officer or member and communicate back with them about what you are doing, or hearing from other members or co-workers. The network is about building sound relationships with the people that you work with every day. This doesn't mean being best friends with everyone at work, but listening to who they are and what they do, and what they want out of the workplace, can make a big difference. Take a look at a CAT leader's responsibilities.
CATs help build our union by:
1. Distributing information (contracts, leaflets, newsletters).When you are handing out information, talk to people about upcoming events, encourage them to get involved.
2. Identifying new people hired into your area or nearby departments. Call or e-mail your organizer about people coming, or leaving in your department. This helps us stay on top of who is working here.
3. Welcoming new employees into area, signing up fee payers to become members. Identify yourself as an AFSCME member. Talk to people about the benefits of the union. People don't always understand the differences between being a fee payer and a full member of our union. Use the accomplishments pamphlet. Explain to people that being a member is only $1 to $3 more, but it helps in big ways. Being a member gives people a voice in the union. Let people know why the union is important to you.
4. Referring grievances to stewards; helping people with problems in their work area. Day to day questions come up about the contract. Members might want to know how the vacation policy applies to a situation, or their supervisor is stressing out and they need to know what to do. You can help members by being there and talking them through what can be done in their situation.
5. Mobilizing and turning co-workers out for events.
6. Building union consciousness in workplace by distributing buttons, posting signs, arranging union lunches and whatever else you can think of. Talk to your organizer for more ideas. We have the right to put up pro-union flyers or event posters on union bulletin boards. Contact your organizer to find out where the union bulletin boards are in your building. Encourage people to wear an AFSCME button or put up a union sign in their cubicle.
7. Discussing contract issues with co-workers. The most affective way to have strong contract proposals is by members themselves setting the agenda. Talk with your fellow union members about what needs to change. Pass this on to the officers, executive board members, or other activists. We need more people to be CATs!
For us to build a stronger union, we need a lot more CATs. Help us by being one. Help yourself by telling the union who you think might be a potential CAT in your building or on another floor from you.
Where do I get more information?
If you have any questions call the AFSCME office or your organizer. We can get you current handouts or the latest flyers, and membership cards. If you don't know who is in the union we can also get you a list of fee payers and members who work close to you. Also, we have training materials for people to become better activists in their union. Download a CAT signup sheet.