Washington County Engages and Organizes

What three things would help you do your job better?

In a new training program designed to increase membership and activism, five members of the Washington County Teachers Association are pivoting from answering that question themselves to asking that question to members in their building. They’re using MSEA’s Innovative Engagement and Organizing Grant to learn more about their colleagues—discovering how they feel about their association, and how the association can serve them better. It’s a basic question, but one not often asked by administrators or until now, their association.

Not training as usual

Using tools and techniques that blend traditional union organizing with data-driven approaches and technology, Washington County’s newest organizers are becoming experts. They’re learning why and how one-on-one conversations with both members and non-members are the most powerful organizing tools.

“This is definitely not training as usual,” said Jessica Barthman, one of the five. “We’re learning in an environment that is exciting, multimedia, and inspirational. We think this is the type of training every member should get.

“I understand now—better than ever before—the meaning and purpose of our union, the importance of building our membership,” Barthman added, “and what we need to do to be influential and successful educators who are as committed to our profession as we are to our students.”

Prepping for on-site visits

Before their next meeting, where they’ll plan an issue focused campaign to organize members, the five will join reps in schools across the county to test their skills at one-on-one meet-ups. By the time they share the results of their program in May at a statewide meeting of MSEA leaders and staff, the local expects to have taken the pulse of its members, found new activists and leaders, and discovered how better to serve them all. 

Click here to read more stories and learn how to apply for the 2015 IEO grant.