“If you’re good to your members, your membership will grow. If you can keep the men and women happy, they become your best recruiters.
How do L-584 (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) members at the machine/fab shop Southern Heat Exchangers, or SHECO, maintain high union membership in a right-to-work state? For L-584 President Patrick Blanchard, winning over new employees isn’t that complicated.
He said the benefits of being in the Boilermakers union are big selling points. Letting potential members know that they will have a voice in upper management can be very effective. “We also push for training and promotional opportunities for members,” Blanchard said.
At SHECO, members fabricate shell and tube heat exchangers—boilers, chillers and chemical processers. “They are shells made with different types of steel and alloy materials that have bundles of tubes inserted in them,” Blanchard said. “Then they’re tested, sandblasted, painted and shipped.”
He started work at SHECO about 10 years ago and joined the union the same year. He’s committed not only to his job but to the union and continuing to grow the local.
Members wait to discuss the union with new hires—who are on a 180-day probation—until employers are finished with training. He said the selling point for any union is to make employees see the union as the best choice.
“We wait till they get their feet wet on the shop floor before approaching them about the union,” Blanchard said. “We try to represent people to the best of our abilities.” He said often, the Boilermakers union sells itself. “Anytime there’s a pension involved, it’s a benefit. I think a pension goes a long way with people.”
Safety is extremely important to both the local and the company, and they have an active safety committee, another selling point to new hires. The local and the company meet monthly to walk the shop floor and determine how to improve safety.
It helps that the local has a good working relationship with the employers. The union and the company try to work together to make things a little more efficient and make the work environment a little more comfortable.
“We don’t always succeed but we try,” Blanchard said. “We have continuous improvement meetings to try and work with the company.”
SHECO also works well with the union in contract and labor meetings.
“Obviously we don’t see eye-to-eye with some things. Even when we butt heads, we learn something,” he said. “If you’re good to your members, your membership will grow. If you can keep the men and women happy, they become your best recruiters.”