Energized, engaged members are the bread and butter of local education associations.
A well-organized LEA with an active, engaged membership builds an enviable community of camaraderie, effectively negotiates for better pay and working conditions for all educators in its school district and fiercely advocates for their colleagues and their public school classrooms.
Getting to that point, however, isn’t always intuitive for local association leaders. It’s hard work, especially in recent years when uncompetitive pay, the stress of teaching during the pandemic and vitriolic politics around public education left many educators exhausted.
But through an Idaho Education Association initiative — called Targeted Locals — local education association leaders can gain the focus and skills needed to organize their membership and drive results that improve their professional lives.
In fact, one IEA affiliate, Moscow Education Association, is quite effective in using the Targeted Local principles — right people, right plan and accountability to the plan — in building a dynamic union local.
“It’s kind of like an IEP (individual education plan) for the local,” said Marianne Sletteland, co-president of the MEA. “It helps us set membership goals, spread the work around so we’re not relying on the same two or three people to do all of it and helps us show members what the MEA, IEA and NEA are all about.”
Started in 2015, the program offers participating locals intense training in strategic planning strategies with organizing experts on IEA’s staff. The program is a model for all National Education Association affiliates across the nation seeking to grow membership and build stronger locals.
“Over the years, affiliates participating in the Targeted Locals program have produced significant membership increases, identified new leaders, and achieved important local association goals, such as better bargaining outcomes, building community relationships, electing pro-public education school board candidates and much more,” McKinley said.
In Moscow, Sletteland said the initiative helps MEA build a roadmap for its work, engage more members in that work and focus on the things that move the needle for members.
Right now, plans for the MEA’s coming contract negotiations with the school district are front and center. Through events like this week’s open house for educators, MEA leaders want to build awareness and engagement in its interest-based bargaining model (IBB) — a process where negotiations take a joint problem-solving approach, rather than the typically confrontational approach that traditional labor negotiations embody. This week’s open house is just the first event of the collective bargaining season for MEA, Sletteland said.
By building its annual plan and thoughtfully engaging members in implementing portions of it, those with an interest in the work of the union reveal themselves, including up-and-coming leaders — an essential part of having a vibrant, engaged local. Finding members with a knack for talking with and organizing less engaged members or potential members is especially valuable.
“We are working hard to show anyone who interested or who might be on the fence about joining exactly what we are about and what we do for our members,” Sletteland said.