September 26, 2011
By Marc Bussanich
While it’s important for unions to show strength when demonstrating at a rally or marching, it’s equally important for labor organizations to reach legislators by crafting persuasive political messages.
Effective planning of a unions’ political action strategy requires creativity and savviness to ensure the message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Jon Del Giorno, Sr. Government Relations Specialist for Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin LLC, works with unions to shape and refine their messaging.
“We assess how politically active a union has been and then develop a plan that uncovers the strengths and weakness of a union’s political action with the aim of dedicating more resources to strengthen the weaknesses,” said Del Giorno.
Del Giorno cited Local 94 Operating Engineers as an example of a union that has perfected the messaging component of political action. Kuba Brown, Local 94’s Business Manager and President, “knew what he wanted to do to convey the union’s political messages, and we helped him execute the plan,” said Del Giorno.
Del Giorno noted that unions’ lack of familiarity with government officials because of turnover and officials’ lack of knowledge of the work members actually do, and how their policies may impact members, contributes to misunderstanding.
To help educate elected officials on the work Local 94 members perform, Brown hosts Open Houses for elected officials to visit the union’s training facilities where they develop a greater appreciation of the union’s role in operating and maintaining the city’s commercial building stock.
The city is currently rewriting its building construction code. The last time it did was in 2007 to make buildings more energy efficient. The process required for such an undertaking includes a lot of input, not the least of which from the skilled operating engineers of Local 94 who know all the ins and outs of operating high-rise buildings. Del Giorno noted that he and Brown worked together to persuade policymakers to staff the committees responsible for rewriting the code with operating engineer experts to ensure the best and efficient method to meet energy efficiency mandates.
Brown’s effectiveness at advocating for Local 94 through sophisticated political messaging has not gone unnoticed among government officials, legislators and labor leaders. When he isn’t hosting Open Houses, Brown is putting officials running for office through the rigor of taking members’ questions at Q & A sessions to determine if the would-be politicians are friendly towards labor.