“Simply put, a Member Action Team is an activist network that communicates with the workforce and mobilizes it around issues people care about. In essence, a MAT is a means of taking the union to work: making the union visible and active in the workplace … MAT leaders don’t have to be stewards, but all stewards should be MAT leaders.” - AFSCME Officer’s Manual
The core of strong unions are strong leaders… but I am not primarily referring to the top elected officers here. Having strong leaders spread throughout the membership, in every worksite and every title, allows unions to dream big and fight hard.
Our goal is to have a consistent leader assigned to each member, and with over 5,000 workers covered by Local 768, we need to recruit hundreds of new activists. There is no prerequisite for being a MAT Leader other than volunteering to join this structure. In the beginning, we'll ask you to simply help communicate between the membership and the leadership, letting us know what issues our members are facing. As they get more training and experience, MAT leaders who become Stewards are asked to represent members at meetings with management and eventually play a larger role once they are ready. You can read all about this on our website (https://www.local768.net/mat), and sign up there as well.
Already, in the past year since we launched this program, we have recruited over 90 leaders – the vast majority of whom were not previously involved in the union! We hold monthly meetings where we combine presentations from some of the experts in DC37 and the broader labor movement with discussions that dig into some of the burning issues that our members are facing. We put our heads together and try to strategize our best next steps.
Over the past year, topics have included the basics of workplace leadership, understanding our contracts and compensation, the structure of DC37, paid family leave, DC37 benefit programs and handling disciplinary cases. The monthly meetings are a place to stay informed, learn new skills and get feedback on your concerns.
As we continue in 2022, one of our primary goals is to collaborate with DC37 to host a Shop Steward course specifically for our Local, focused on the issues that our members face every day. We will also use this column in our newsletter to highlight some of the strategies that our MAT Leaders and Stewards have used effectively, and we hope that you will join us in building power in your work.
To get involved, visit www.local768.net/mat
Nate Franco is Local 768's 2nd Vice President and a Social Worker and shop steward at Harlem Hospital.