How to Attract Federal Professionals to a Union: Open a Can of “Whoop-Ass”

Will federal professionals flock to join a union that vows to “open up…a can of whoop-ass” on Members of Congress?

According to AFGE National President J. David Cox in a speech to members of the union: “We are a force to be reckoned with and we are a force that will open up the biggest can of whoop ass on anyone” voting against the interests of the union.

No doubt, the “can of whoop ass” quote will draw attention to his speech and to his recruitment efforts. Mr. Cox also noted that he wants to grow the union to 300,000 members from its current level of 291,000.

No doubt, his colorful terminology will draw the attention of those who want to be associated with an organization that will “open up the biggest can of whoop ass on anyone” who disagrees with his views of what is good for the federal government’s workforce.

On the other hand, one has to wonder: Will colorful language such as this appeal to the professionals who make up much of the federal workforce or will it drive them away? Do professionals in the federal workforce want to be seen as associating with an organization that wants to hand out a “can of whoop-ass?”

I doubt anyone can answer in a definitive way. Mr. Cox undoubtedly knows his audience and may have a handle on how to get up to the 300,000 or so members he is seeking.

My personal opinion:  The language will be debilitating in efforts to recruit new members from the professional class of federal employees. It comes across as a stereotypical public image of unions from a bygone era when they were appealing largely to blue collar workers in various industries. No doubt, Mr. Cox may be right in that it will appeal to some federal employees who find it funny, emblematic of a tough guy who will fight for them or otherwise fits their idea of what a union should be.

According to a recent GAO report: “Government-wide, most of the increase in employment from 2004 to 2012 occurred within occupational categories that require higher skill and educational levels. These categories include professional occupations (e.g., doctors and scientists), and administrative occupations (e.g., financial and program managers), as opposed to clerical, technical, and blue collar occupations (which remained stable).”

From having worked around professionals working for a wide variety of federal agencies, most would probably prefer to have their views expressed with more articulate phraseology and would not want federal doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals perceived by the public with “whoop-ass” imagery.

Perhaps professionals working for Uncle Sam will flock to join the union that vows to “open up a can of whoop-ass” and open up their check to start their union dues deduction. Perhaps they will not do so. Fortunately for federal employees, they have the freedom to join and pay dues to a union that may represent them…or not.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47