Advocating for the majority, while recognizing (and respecting) outliers in a union

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Unions play the important job of advocating for the rights and needs of their members, in addition to promoting fair labour practices for all working people. But how do decisions get made (particularly around collective bargaining) so that they are based on a representative consensus rather than just the loudest voices?

Quantitative and qualitative research (i.e. member surveys and focus groups) are a great tool for unions to accurately listen and respond to members’ concerns. Statistically significant, representative research is key to creating an accurate road map of member priorities (and trade-offs) during collective bargaining.

Why it works:

When done correctly, survey and focus groups based on multiple channels (phone, online, text) can accurately inform member demands (and effectively, collective bargaining efforts) by:

Preventing an echo chamber

Oftentimes, the same pool of active and engaged members are the most vocal, while the voices of average or marginalized members are missed. Survey research performed by an outside, third party research vendor can ensure your results reflect the representative views of your larger membership base, not just your most engaged members. It provides a great gut check, verifying or contradicting leadership assumptions.

Providing barometer of member priorities

Survey research can uncover the issue/priority areas for bargaining, identifying broad-based concerns as well as the specific benefits or policies members support for addressing those concerns. Research can tell organizations not only what members want, but also how they prioritize their demands (and why).

Valuing all of your members

Well-executed opinion surveys (or member census) and focus groups communicate to members that you not only value, but recognize the need to accurately represent and reflect their voices in bargaining and other union efforts.

Interested in how this could all work for your union and/or members? Contact us at for more information.

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