AFSCME Strong in Joliet
AFSCME Local 440 members committed to being 100% Union
Local 440 President David Gornick credits three main things for his local union’s success: engagement, communication and unity.
Of the 300 members of AFSCME Local 440, full-time employees at the City of Joliet are 100% Union and the Joliet Housing Authority is nearly there as well.
“We try to keep everybody involved,” Gornick said of the local’s efforts. “If you want to see changes, you’ve got to be part of your union. You can’t just rely on a couple people to do the work.”
One way the local keeps members engaged is by holding regular, informative union meetings that welcome new members and cover important issues. If you miss the meeting, you miss a lot, Gornick said, and that keeps attendance high.
The local also builds engagement by doing charitable work together in the community.
“If we know there’s someone in need, we try to help them out,” Gornick said. “One year the community center didn’t have the money for Christmas presents or a party, so we collected donations. Another time we all went out together and helped hand out food to the needy. We just try to give back to the city.”
The local hooks up with other unions to do community service as well. Recently some volunteers worked with members of the building trades union to help clean up the historic Joliet Prison, clearing out brush and debris so the city could use the space.
When new employees join the local, Gornick, the executive board and the membership chair reach out to explain what the union means and what the contract does for them—and to sign them up as dues-paying members.
“We’ve had good contracts over the years with good wages and health insurance,” Gornick said. “They see what we have and that motivates them to join the union and keep it strong. I explain that if you aren’t a member and you aren’t paying the dues, we won’t have the money to fight the fights we need to protect the gains we’ve made together.”
The breadth of work done by the local makes unity a critical component of their success, and the local union executive board represents every department so that no one’s needs are neglected.
Gornick is the chief operator at the wastewater treatment plant. Other members also work in the water and sewer plants, in the public works department or in administration. There are clerical workers, dispatchers, mechanics, case workers, engineers, inspectors, electricians and more. The local has also brought in new members in recent years, formerly exempt positions that petitioned to join the union because they were not treated fairly.
In negotiations, Local 440 knows that sticking together as a unit makes them stronger as a whole. The AFSCME local even reaches out to other unions represented in the city to ensure fair treatment across the board for public employees in Joliet, including police and fire.
Over the years, the unions have banded together to stop layoffs and prevent the city from making cuts to health insurance. And AFSCME members have won gains in wages and benefits by standing strong together at the bargaining table.
“After all the attacks we’ve had, we’ve learned how important it is to stay united,” Gornick said. “Everybody is looking out for everybody. You can’t let differences get in your way. It’s a team effort. And as a result, we’re treated pretty fairly.”