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Members in Local 326 are ready to have a big impact on the construction industry in Connecticut following a massive milestone in member activation. In October, more than 180 rank-and-file members from the local travelled together to the International Training Center (ITC) of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) in Las Vegas to participate in the union’s signature member education program: “Building Leadership for a Strong Future.”
It is believed to be the first time in the UBC that an entire session of the three-day training was composed entirely of members from a single local union. More than just a symbolic and logistical achievement, it’s expected to pay dividends by developing common bonds among members.
“These members may have different perspectives and their values may not be identical,” said Executive Secretary-Treasurer Joe Byrne. “But the all have some very basic things in common: their interest in the survival and success of this union and the influence it has on the construction industry in Connecticut. Sharing this experience results in a bond and common understanding of purpose we think will have long-term benefits.”
Tens of thousands of UBC members have participated in the program, sometimes casually referred to as the “.300 Hitters Program.” It reviews the operations and purpose of the union and challenges members to play a greater role in the future of the union, other individual members and the larger industry. In addition to education about the interaction of the union and other players in the industry, it provides skills related to leadership, mentoring, coaching and communication.
Council Representative Dave Jarvis helped recruit and coordinate members for the training. He said pulling together such a large number of members wasn’t easy, but he was encouraged by the positive response. He also says he is not surprised to already see a reaction.
“The more we learn about our union and the industry, the more we understand the impact each of us individually can have when we get involved,” he said. “It’s not just the steward or the foreman that completes a project. It’s the entire crew of carpenters. The same goes for the union. We have staff and delegates and an executive board, but it’s the entire membership that makes our union successful.
Ardemar Torres was hired as a full-time Council Representative just before the session happened and accompanied the group. It wasn’t his first time at the program, but he said the composition of the group led to more specific conversations about things back home.
“Everybody related to each other, and everything was more relevant because they were all from the same place and had the same understanding,” he said. “The collaboration between members—even Spanish-speaking members and English-speaking members–was deeper and the questions were more specific. By the end, everyone was really active and into the training and nobody felt left out.”
Jarvis and Torres say attendance at monthly union meetings has increased significantly and more members have been asking to get involved since returning from Las Vegas. Whether attending public meetings or just changing their communication style, productivity or attitude on the job, they says it all adds up.
“They’re concerned about where we’re going as a union,” Torres said. “Most didn’t know and they worried about what they could talk about. Now we’ve got members talking and bringing new ideas into our local.”
Among the list of things carpenters will be doing is getting to know more members in their own communities the way they got to know the ones who shared the Las Vegas experience.
Chris Prevost, a 10-year member of Local 326, has had to pass on participating in the training because he’s a single father. And though he said he’s taken a few private sector seminars related to skill-building and management styles, he put this one at the of his list in terms of effectiveness.
“We have serious hurdles to jump over and we need serious people to handle our business,” he said. “This program enables us to know more and work together to meet our challenges.”
He said being in a room full of people from one area helped facilitate more conversation about jobs worked back home. He says it’s also helped when he got back.
“There are always a few people who say you ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ or just want to be negative. It’s nice to have a few people right there on the job who can step in and say they were there and then we can back each other up.
Byrne said the outcome is exactly what he’d hoped for when dedicating the entire session to the local.
“In the conversations I’ve had with members of Local 326, I’ve seen the passion and the concerns they have,” he said. “We put together this group as a way to increase their power and their understanding of how they can make a difference. I’m excited about the impact they’ll have and the rewards they’ll enjoy.”
Members interested in learning more about professional development and union building programs offered by the UBC at the ITC in Las Vegas should visit nasrcc.org/ITC and complete the form to be considered for future sessions.