In January, Terry Nelson, business manager/secretary-treasurer of District Council 82 (Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota), received the Labor Leader Award from the St. Paul Regional Federation of Labor. This Federation represents over 52,000 members of 175 different unions, and annually honors labor leaders and union members for their exceptional activism in politics, community action and organizing.
Brother Nelson and his fellow members won the award for their outstanding efforts in political action. The DC 82 team of volunteers knocked on the doors of voters in their assigned county in the last election and built on their continued success in changing the area from a Republican leaning area to Democratic through voter education on the issues.
“We have had some of our greatest success in making progress in political action on behalf of working families in Dakota County over the last five years,” said Robert Kasper, president of the Federation. “With the work undertaken by the IUPAT and Terry’s exceptional leadership, we took back nine seats in 2012, only lost one in 2014, and remained even in 2016 with an overwhelming amount of votes going for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in that election. Terry Nelson and that IUPAT Army of Black and Gold volunteers have consistently worked a couple levels above the rest when it comes to political activism.”
Nelson credits the dedication of the team of IUPAT volunteers for their success in getting out the vote for pro-worker candidates. “It’s been a rough time for labor over the last eight years or so,” said Nelson. “We’ve seen our work and our bank accounts drop in a recession, and the passage of anti-union laws, among other things. This has had an overall chilling effect on mobilizing volunteers to turn things around for working families. However, I’m proud to say that the men and women of the IUPAT in Minnesota have always come through, no matter how many tell us that the labor movement is down and out. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to lead them.”
The work and activism of the members of District Council 82 went far beyond Dakota County. In fact, BMST Nelson and his team of volunteers also received a top award from the AFL-CIO for their work statewide. Moreover, since this is a council-wide program, IUPAT members are making great progress in North Dakota and in Montana. “We were very successful in mobilizing a high number of members in Montana,” said Nelson. “As a result, we have received quite a bit of recognition in playing a strong part in the successful re-election of Governor Steve Bullock. We are well on our way to doing more of the same for the candidates and initiatives we support in North Dakota, as well.”
His advice to other union leaders and activists on how to successfully rally volunteers for a cause – set goals. “Set a realistic goal and keep your members concentrated on that goal. For example, tell them that we have to knock on X many doors, and talk to a specific number of voters about our chosen candidate. When you achieve that goal, the success becomes contagious. And, hopefully, because you reached that many voters, you get a victory in a campaign. As you get victories, it gets in your blood. You want more, and that keeps those volunteers motivated.”
Nelson also explained the importance of keeping experienced IUPAT members and retirees involved. “Their experience is invaluable, and we need to educate our younger volunteers and get them excited about what we get back from activism, both in politics and in our communities.”
The IUPAT is renowned for its political action, and District Council 82 is carrying on the strong tradition. There is more work to be done for working families in the United States and Canada, time for us all to do our part. Contact your district council today to learn how you can volunteer.