One Local's Direct Dues Challenge

Cindy Ramsey is on fire.

The Local 701 member from Hutchinson, who works as a one-to-one caregiver in a state-run care facility for developmentally disabled adults, has spent the past two months on a mission to sign up her entire Local – all 192 members – for Direct Dues.

Local 701 President Cathy Malvin has been on the job for 28 years. After the recent unexpected loss of her husband, Malvin says she was just about ready to pass the torch to the next generation of AFSCME leaders. But Cindy’s passion and determination is contagious. “She’s just got a fire in her,” Malvin explains. “She’s so passionate, it’s hard not to follow along!”

After their January 2019 membership meeting, Cindy got to work. She and her coworkers laid out a plan to visit each worksite in their local, and came up with creative ways to make sure they were able to not just sign people up, but to use the Direct Dues conversations as a tool to get members more engaged in our union.

The local’s leaders are building power beyond signing their coworkers up for Direct Dues. They’ve also been promoting AFSCME PEOPLE (Cindy has recruited more than 15 PEOPLE MVPs since they launched the Direct Dues campaign) and enlisting members to join them in lobbying for pro-worker legislation at the Capitol.

Malvin says the campaign hasn’t just resulted in amazing results for Direct Dues and PEOPLE signups – it’s empowered members at other worksites to branch out in their own organizing efforts, creating more solidarity and worker power at each of the sites the team visits.

When asked what keeps them motivated, both Ramsey and Malvin point to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME as a precursor to the attacks on workers’ rights on their way – and their commitment to fighting back.

“They thought they were going to take us out when they chopped fair share dues [with the Janus decision]. If anything, we just became stronger,” Malvin says. “People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to join my union,’ and then they joined. We’re just being proactive before the forces behind Janus decide they’re going to bust our union by ending dues check-off. That won’t matter if we’ve already got everyone on Direct Dues.”

On top of that head start, Malvin sees another big benefit of the Direct Dues push. With state employees currently at the negotiating table, she says, switching over to Direct Dues will give AFSCME members a leg up. “The more we take out of the boss’s ability to know about us,” she says, “the stronger we are.” The local has also taken advantage of their site visits to collect home emails, another organizing tool to help build opacity into their communication structure during contract negotiations. “Direct Dues and all of the organizing we’re doing – we’re taking back our power,” Malvin says.

The pair say they sometimes run into pushback when they’re asking coworkers to sign up, but they’ve planned for that, too. Cindy says that while folks are initially concerned about sharing their financial information or getting double-billed, walking members through the sign-up process and teaching them how to navigate MemberLink and take control of their dues tends to assuage their fears. She always shows members the AFSCME Advantage tab on MemberLink, too. Cathy says that more members of the local are using their AFSCME Advantage benefits than ever, as a direct result of their Direct Dues outreach.

Both women say that although they’ve discovered a particular passion for organizing their coworkers around Direct Dues, the most significant rewards involve the organizing power and relationships that have been built throughout the campaign.

“We’ve empowered others in our local to get their coworkers signed up, too,” says Malvin.