Five Ideas For Union Recruitment of Young People

Communicating to and engaging with young people is notoriously difficult – even for major multinationals with millions of dollars in marketing budgets. For unions, which are under regular attack from media figures and conservative politicians, it is as difficult for join young people up and engage them in campaign as for any organisation.

A key for effective communication is to understand your audience. Communicating with young people requires this in spades. There is no such thing as generic “young person”. Like other groups of potential members, young people are united by common interests, education, income, demographics, needs, geographies, occupations, goals, communities and ethnicities (amongst other things).

The difficulties of encouraging young people to join unions are obvious, but here are some. Young people are more likely to have precarious employment and many will be working in a job they do not foresee as a long-term career. Being casual means they have a smaller income to pay union dues. Young people are often very mobile, so can change jobs easily (if they can find work at all).

Many young people are unaware that a union exists that would cover them. Increasingly, young people have high expectations for organizations in terms of the quality of communication experience: in print, online and on television and radio – it should be engaging, interactive and relevant. Their expectations upon joining may be quite high: as everything speeds up, everyone, including young people, expect instant responses and solutions to problems. The prevalence of smart phones amongst young people means that they’re more and more expecting organizations to have mobile-ready websites and other communications creative, like videos or games.

Finally, more and more young people want customized responses to their concerns and needs. Big service organizations like mobile phone companies, credit card companies, health insurance companies and media companies have responded by fragmenting their offers and allowing a “pick and choose” approach. These companies aren’t doing this because they like choice, but because their customers are demanding and expecting them.

Unions, unlike behemoths like Coke or Nike, don’t have massive marketing budgets. These multi-nationals spend a small fortune on market research, in an elusive search for “cool”. The result is often awfully superficial, and distils young people down to stereotypes focused on consumption. Where they excel however is their creative execution. Their ads are better produced, their websites more engaging.

Most unions understand many of the workplace concerns of young people. In most regards, the needs and desires of young people won’t differ much from their older colleagues. They want recognition and respect, and decent wages and conditions.

Unfortunately, unions are most often let down by their execution. Attempts to pitch at young people are often ham fisted, filled with “grunge” fonts and out-of-date “youth-speak”.

Social-Recruiting

So, having outlined some of the challenges, here are five ideas for unions to use when trying to engage young people at work:

1. Link careers with unions

Most young people who have casual jobs don’t see it as a career, especially if the job in question is one they have while attending college. Eventually however, they will embark on a career, and if they’re lucky, it will be one they are passionate about.

Unions should draw more clearly the link between a young worker’s interests and passions, and thus their future career, with the union. This can be difficult for unions covering those casual jobs — but for unions with coverage over those career jobs, engagement with your future members starts before they enter the workforce.

This is most obvious for young people pursuing professional jobs like teaching, nursing or engineering, but can apply for careers like the law, journalism, architecture or graphic design (or even accounting and marketing).

Having a campus outreach program, student membership (so you can give potential members a “trial” membership) and programs to strengthen the specific career is essential.

For unions that cover those casual, precarious work, it’s time to get more creative.

Perhaps investigate joint membership with those career, professional unions. When a teaching student at university gets student membership with the teacher’s union, could they have an associate membership with the union that covers their fast-food job? (This could be organised through a state or national peak body.) Could unions work with universities, colleges or schools, where the educational institution buys “bulk” membership for their students?

2. Don’t talk down to prospective members

Avoid thinking of the current generation like your own. This generation simply doesn’t think or act as you do.

The way that young people engage online or with television, or even with major corporate brands, is changing constantly. For most of you, when you were entering the workforce, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. Now things like Instagram and Snapchat are changing how young people create and distribute content. This generation has simply never lived without the Internet.

The bottom line here is that unions need to talk to young workers as equals. For a start, messages that emphasise how vulnerable young workers are, or how they are being exploited, can make young people feel devalued. Even though it’s true that young workers are more likely to be ripped off or poorly treated, starting from that point is less likely to engage young people.

Effective communication is often informal and personal, with engaging imagery. It is delivered across all key social sites, including through mobile and apps. It relies on peer-to-peer recommendations and often uses testimonials from other young people talking positively about their experience.

3. Put out your messages on multiple channels

Young people consume media through multiple channels. The phenomenon of multi-screen consumption is well and truly entrenched.

Moreso than ever, when a young person engages with an issue, company or cause, they do so on their mobile, and their tablet, and their computer, and the television. It’s no longer enough to have your message just in print, or just online, or just on TV or radio (depending on your budget).

Your message will not only be more meaningful, but it will be more engaging if it can be consumed through multiple channels.

At the risk of sounding obvious, unions should communicate with young workers in places they are likely to be. Don’t just launch your website or Facebook page. You need to promote your message in a wide variety of places: at the cinema, on TV, on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, out-door, and in apps. In order to cut through the white-noise of modern marketing, you need to (unfortunately) increase your volume and your reach.

Unions are still playing catch up on this front. Most unions are still heavily invested in their print media: journals, posters, flyers. While some are broadening out to improving their websites, email and social media presence, substantial investment is needed still.

4. Use creative that aligns with young people’s lives

By the time they enter the workforce, most young people will have already formed tight social circles, whether through school, sport, music, church or other interests. While unions may not seem like it is their role to help workers “fit in”, it can be an important opportunity for organizers and delegates to engage with young workers. This means simple things like ensuring that delegates welcome young workers and help ensure they are included.

It also means that unions should use creative — that is, graphic design and text copy — that resonates with contemporary culture. I don’t mean that older people should write “cool” lingo. But union communicators and organizers should be aware of communication trends. This is a big challenge, but unions who want to engage with and join young people to the union need to invest more in creative graphic design and communication that is relevant and modern, and be able to adapt.

5. Don’t be stuck to the past

It can be difficult for unions to move quickly or respond to new challenges. As democratic organizations, unions often can only make big (but important) changes through democratic decision-making, such as annual or biannual council meetings or delegate conferences.

However, unions must take a fresh look at what their core message is (not just to young people, but overall). Focus and clarity are essential. What are unions all about? Why does the union exist?

If these simple things cannot be clearly expressed in a contemporary manner, then you will have trouble communicating to young workers.

The essence of all effective communication is focus. Unions must communicate a single thing clearly.

Be prepared to jettison the old ways of communicating — those “ten reasons to join” lists, and outdated slogans about “workers united will never be defeated”. Also, forget about your communications being one way. The days of broadcast communications being effective are over. Even big brands who advertise on TV find that their ads are being talked about on social media like Twitter or Facebook and more. Think about the new trend of major advertisers such as Burger King that activate your smart technologies by yelling out “Hey Alexa” in their ads.

More broadly than just messaging and communications, unions need to start creatively thinking about membership options and plans. Not just looking at price, but considering options where young people can join without the full “premium” service, or “online only” advice. How unions engage with young people will increasingly be online. Should unions look at 24-hour “chat” services to give advice instead of expecting face-to-face meetings with industrial officers or organizers? How can young workers engage in solidarity actions digitally? Unions need to come to terms with the notion that “full” engagement and commitment is a very high bar.

YOUR TURN

Given the challenges inherent in recruiting young Union members, what ideas do you have to try to drive membership among this generation? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly UNION STRONG email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

 

Fair Work Week: Oregon the First State to Curb Schedule Abuses

Oregon is set to become the first U.S. state requiring certain businesses to furnish workers with a week’s notice of their job schedules and a minimum of 10 hours rest between daily shifts under a bill that won final legislative approval last week.

FAIR WORK WEEK

The bill, dubbed the “fair work week” act by supporters, is aimed at giving greater predictability to low-wage employees whose hours tend vary widely from day to day or week to week. Democratic Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill into law.

The measure would go into effect next year and apply to Oregon workers on the payrolls of retail, food service and hospitality companies with at least 500 employees worldwide where abusive scheduling practices have become increasingly common.

Under the bill, those companies must provide employees in Oregon, starting on July 18, with written estimates of their work schedules seven days in advance, with the required scheduling notice increased to two weeks beginning in July 2020.

RELATED: Coast-to-Coast American Workers Fight for Stable Schedules

Workers also would be entitled to a break of at least 10 hours between work shifts from one day to the next, and to receive extra pay if they agreed to a shorter rest interval – typically between closing hours at night and opening hours the next morning.

Moreover, the bill protects employees from workplace retaliation for merely expressing a scheduling preference to their bosses.

RELATED: Yes, We Can Do Something About Insecure Work in America

Work schedule predictability has emerged as a major issue causing growing anxiety in the American labor force even as the U.S. jobless rate has fallen to below-average levels.

Supporters of Oregon’s bill cite recent studies showing volatile work hours becoming increasingly common, posing difficulties in managing personal finances, arranging for child care and making doctor’s appointments, especially for single working parents.

One in six Oregon workers reported having less than 24 hours notice of their job shifts; nearly three-quarters said they were notified of work schedules two weeks or less in advance; and 44 percent said they had worked back-to-back shifts, such as closing one day and opening the next, according to a report from the Labor Education Research Center of the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

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How the Law Works

Under SB 828, retail, hotel, and food service establishments that have 500 or more employees worldwide must:

  • Provide new hires with a written good faith estimate of their work schedule
  • Post work schedules at least 7 days in advance (14 days after July 1, 2020).
  • Provide at least 10 hours between work shifts (unless the employee requests or consents to work otherwise, in which case they earn time-and-a-half for hours worked less than 10 hours after the previous shift)
  • Compensate employees for schedule changes: An extra hour of pay for each time more than 30 minutes is added to a shift, or the date or start time of a shift is changed with no loss of hours, or an additional work or on-call shift is added; and an extra half an hour of pay for each scheduled hour that an employee doesn’t end up working because the employer cancels a shift or changes the start or end time of a shift.
  • Pay half-time for each hour that an employee is on-call but isn’t called in to work.

The employers aren’t required to pay for schedule changes that employees initiate. And they can maintain a standby list of employees who are willing to work extra hours on short notice in case of unanticipated customer needs or unexpected employee absences.

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Oregon’s legislation, which sponsors say would mark the first of its kind in the nation, follows the enactment of similar measures by several cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

The bill cleared the Oregon’s House of Representatives on Thursday on a bipartisan vote of 46-13. The state Senate passed the measure last week on a vote of 23-6, following extensive negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

YOUR TURN

How would you benefit from Fair Work Week legislation? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Laptop Ban on Planes to US Replaced by Tighter Security

The US Homeland Security Department has decided not to expand a ban on laptops in the passenger cabins of planes flying to the States. Instead it’s requiring tighter security measures for all aircraft and airports.

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The DHS made the announcement last week, saying the enhanced security standards would apply to all commercial flights to the United States. The 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa affected by the current laptop ban will have that prohibition lifted if they implement the new standards.

RELATED: How Hackers Can Ruin Your Vacation

The DHS had previously indicated that the ban, which applies to laptops, tablets and other devices larger than mobile phones, might be expanded to all flights from Europe. Later, it said the ban might be applied to all international flights to and from the US.

Homeland Security put the ban in place after intelligence revealed terrorists were developing an explosive that could be hidden in portable electronic devices.

In a fact sheet on its website, the DHS said the new security measures would include “enhancing overall passenger screening; conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices; increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations.”

YOUR TURN

What’s your preference while traveling; increased security and screening measures or an all-out ban? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Union Built PC UNION STRONG eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

How Hackers Can Ruin Your Summer Vacation

From airports to hotels to that cute café you found, it just takes one cybersecurity slipup to turn your holiday into a nightmare.

It was the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta. Ken Spinner, then a systems consultant — and tourist in the city — lost his credit card information.

But this was more than two decades ago, so it happened the old-fashioned way: a mugging at the ATM.

Today, hackers can steal your banking and credit card information without leaving their couches. That’s particularly worrisome if you’re taking off for the summer. It’s peak vacation time, but it’s also the perfect season for hackers.

As Americans take more than 657 million trips between now and Labor Day weekend, they’re vulnerable to cyberattacks that steal their credit card data and personal information. For cyberthieves, resort hotels and airports make for lucrative hunting grounds.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Growing Threat of Ransomware and How to Stay Safe

It’s no different from why thieves and pickpockets target tourists on vacation: They’re in an unfamiliar setting, they have their guard down and, more importantly, they’ve got money.

It’s like why people rob banks. That’s where the money is. When people go on vacation they use airports and stay at resorts.

From a cybersecurity perspective, hotels aren’t exactly bastions of relaxation. Over a three-month time-span surrounding the 2016 holiday season, more than 1,200 InterContinental Hotels suffered hacks. Malware has also hit President Donald Trump’s luxury hotel chain, along with Sheraton, Westin, Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, Kimpton and Wyndham hotels — the list goes on.

In every one of those breaches, thieves stole credit card information from the hotels, leaving thousands of unsuspecting customers open to getting robbed. It’s not just your money these hotels are losing; addresses, phone numbers, names, and check-in and check-out times are all fair game.

unsecured Wi-Fi

Because many hotels are chains, one breached location means hackers can break into the entire network for the mother lode of information. The stolen information can be sold online for up to $50 per account.

The majority of incidents start from a single employee at a hotel getting phished.

So even if your family takes all the precautions to keep your credit card information safe, and the hotel you stay at is safe, it could be a part of a compromised network. You could do nothing wrong and still lose.

Union Built PC feels hotels should invest more in encryption and in testing their security systems regularly.

RELATED: How Union Built PC Resolved the Cyber Terrorism Strike Against JATC Union Local 351

But the breaches don’t stop at hotels. Airports, coffee shops, beaches — any place with open Wi-Fi, really — should have you on the lookout.

Safe Travels

Don’t fret too much, though. There are still ways to keep yourself safe.

When you’re traveling, and don’t have your precious home or office internet access, be wary of any public Wi-Fi network you jump on. You might be setting yourself up for a man-in-the-middle attack.

That’s when a thief will set up a bogus hotspot, made to look exactly like the public Wi-Fi you wanted to get on, like the hotel lobby’s or the airport’s. When you sign on, you’re actually sending all your data to the hacker, without any warnings that you’re being compromised in plain sight.

It happens so frequently that in Singapore more people are afraid of using public Wi-Fi than public toilets.

Plus, people typically have their guard down when they’re on vacation. They won’t consider what the implications are if they go to a rogue Wi-Fi hotspot.

Without question, when on any public WiFi hotspot, avoid banking websites and online shopping. Anywhere you are entering your personal financial information. Always use an encrypted connection. 

RELATED: Protect Your Sensitive Data from Cyber Criminals with the Union Built Cloud

Going Electronically Naked

In some more extreme cases, consider going “electronically naked.” That means leaving every piece of technology at home: your phone, your laptop, your tablet, your iPad – everything! (It’s hard to conceive but read on.)

There are entire retreats dedicated to detoxing from digital life, so the idea of going on vacation without any technology isn’t as farfetched as you may think. Cyber Security experts most often go “electronically naked” when visiting China or Russia. This is where the majority of hackers emanate from.

Enigma Software took a look at cities in the US, Canada and Europe that have the highest malware infection rates. So if you’re heading to any of these cities, you may want to consider going electronically naked:

highest-malware-infection-ratesYOUR TURN

Has your personal financial data been breached? On vacation or otherwise? What happened? What was the resolution process like? We want to hear from you! Sound off in Comments, on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, or on our Twitter or LinkedIn Feeds.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

5 Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund

While Americans may disagree on how their taxes are spent, at tax time, most of us are looking for ways to pay no more than we owe, or even boost our tax refunds.

Pressing save on taxes key on keyboard

These five strategies go beyond the obvious to give you tried-and-true ways to reduce your tax liability:

1. Rethink filing status to boost your refund
One of the first decisions you make when completing your tax return, your filing status, can affect your refund’s size, especially if you’re married. While most married couples file jointly — 95 percent did in 2015 — a joint return is not always the most beneficial way to boost your refund. Married-filing-separately status requires more effort, but the time you invest offers tax savings under the right circumstances. Calculating your taxes both ways will point you in the higher refund direction.

The IRS uses a percentage of adjusted gross income — AGI — to determine whether some deductions can be used such as medical and certain miscellaneous expenses. Filing separately gives each spouse a lower AGI. If one of them has a lot of medical expenses, such as COBRA payments resulting from a job loss, computing taxes individually allows that spouse to reach the needed AGI percentage based on his or her own income.

Or, a spouse who spends a lot of time on the road and in the air might have travel expenses such as baggage fees that merit separate filing. Expenses can add up for an unemployed spouse looking for work — long distance calls, resume preparation, career counseling and networking — and could be a sleeping miscellaneous deduction that reduces taxable income. However, choosing to file separate returns has drawbacks, such as losing credits available to joint filers, that you must weigh to maximize your refund potential.

Tax reductions from claiming dependents can cut a single parent’s tax bill when he or she files ashead of household. You need to have one or more children who lived with you for more than six months, and paid more than 50 percent of the cost of keeping a home. Those costs include mortgage and rent, utilities, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, repairs and food.

Single taxpayers who care for a parent may also qualify for the more advantageous head-of-household status if they paid more than half of the cost of maintaining that parent’s residence for the whole year. Your parent need not live with you; when you pay more than half of their cost to live in a home for seniors or rest home, you can claim head of household.

2. Don’t shy away from tax deductions
Keeping a trip log for your volunteer work, job-hunting and doctor’s appointments may seem like a waste of time, but those miles add up and represent deductions. Parking, toll and bus or taxi receipts support your claim, while a record of the miles you drove lets you write off the cost of using your car through the standard mileage rate. Good travel records could help you reach the needed minimum percentage of adjusted gross income for miscellaneous deductions.

Moving for a new job 50 miles or more away can boost your tax refund because you can deduct moving, storage and travel expenses related to your relocation. You have to work full time at the new job for at least 39 weeks the first year; however, you can take the deduction in the year you move if you expect to meet this time test within the following tax year. You don’t have to itemize to get this tax break to lower your adjusted gross income. Simply figure your total using IRS Form 3903 and attach it to your 1040 return.

Charitable deductions can help your refund cause, too. Record keeping lets you add up the dollars spent doing charity work, in addition to claiming the market value of any clothing or household things you donate. When you bake for a fund-raiser, the cost of your ingredients can be deducted, but not the value of the time you spent baking.

3. Maximize your IRA contributions
You have until April 15th to open a traditional IRA for the previous tax year. That gives you the flexibility of claiming the credit on your return, filing early and using your refund to open the account. Traditional IRA contributions reduce your taxable income. You can take advantage of the maximum contribution and, if you’re at least 50 years old, the catch-up provision, to add to your IRA. If you contributed to a Roth IRA, you may be able to claim the retirement savings contribution credit that also lowers taxable income and result in a larger refund check.

4. Timing can boost your tax refund
And while this line item may be a day late and a dollar short, it’s good to keep in mind for next year. Taxpayers who watch the calendar improve their chances of getting a larger refund. If you can, pay January’s mortgage payment before December 31st and get the added interest for your mortgage interest deduction.

Schedule health-related treatments and exams in the last quarter of the year to boost your medical expense deduction potential.

Paying property taxes by New Year’s Eve could make the difference between itemizing and taking the standard deduction, and thus, a bigger refund. If you’re self-employed, you can pay your fourth-quarter state estimated taxes in December, rather than in January when they’re normally due, to increase your itemizing potential.

5. Become credit savvy and refund happy
Credits work better than deductions as refund boosters. For each credit dollar, your taxes go down a dollar. Yet, 20% of eligible Americans don’t claim the earned income tax credit. If you’re working and meet the guidelines, you may be eligible for EITC even if you’re single with no children. If you have kids, the child-care credit may help you.

For those with children in college, credits related to higher education expenses, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, could provide tax relief. We spoke with CPA Miles Brkovich of Bennett & Brkovich, LLC in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and he says; “The American Opportunity Credit is great because up to $1,000 is refundable. That means you could receive as much as $1,000 even if you had no tax liability. The total credit is $2,500 and applies only to the first four years of undergraduate higher education expenses. If you’re in grad school or beyond, you may be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit.”

Tax laws change frequently, and credits come and go, so staying informed can be financially rewarding. Credits for home improvements that save energy keep more money in your wallet throughout the year and at tax time. For example, an investment in an alternative energy heating system for your home could let you claim 30 percent of the cost through 2017.

YOUR TURN

Do you have any tips to add to this list? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

This article is for general informational purposes designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Union Built PC employees and principals are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

9 Home Safety Tips for the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time full of food, family get-togethers and traditions, but the holidays can also pose many safety concerns, so it’s best to be cautious. From lighting candles to hanging Christmas lights, there are plenty of safety hazards that can occur during the holidays. Let’s take a look at nine home safety tips for the holidays to keep you and your family safe.

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1. Inspect Lights
Carefully look at your holiday light strings every year, and be sure to throw away any cracked lamp holders, frayed cords or loose connections. When you replace bulbs, you need to unplug the lights and match the voltage and wattage to the original bulb.

2. Buy a Fresh Tree
If you buy a live Christmas tree for your home, try to purchase a fresh tree since they are more fire resistant. Always keep your tree watered, and keep open flames away from it.

3. Lights Out
When you leave your house or go to sleep, make sure to turn off your holiday lights.

4. Timed Lights
Use a certified CSA International outdoor timer to switch on and off your holiday lights. Your lights should be turned on after 7:00 p.m. to avoid the electricity “rush hour.”

5. Check for Certification
Your holiday lights, extension cords, spotlights, carbon monoxide alarms, gas appliances and electrical decorations should be certified by an accredited certification organization like CSA International, UL or ELT to make sure they comply with safety standards and performance. Look for the certification mark on the product package to ensure you are making a safe purchase.

6. Don’t Connect Extension Cords
You should never connect two or more extension cords together. Only use a single cord that is long enough to reach to the outlet you need without stretching.

7. Keep Electrical Connectors Off the Ground
If you are hanging lights outside, keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal gutters. Also use insulated tape or plastic clips to keep lights secure.

8. Choose the Right Ladder
Make sure you select the right ladder size for the job if you are putting up lights on your house. Check for a certification mark to make sure the ladder complies with safety standards.

9. Check Your Furnace
Prevent CO hazards in your home by hiring a professional heating contractor to do a maintenance checkup of your furnace and ventilation system. You will want to clean or replace your furnace filter often during the winter months.

YOUR TURN

How will you keep your home safe during the holidays? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Union Built PC UNION STRONG eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox.