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Union Difference: Nebraska’s Michael Henry on why he’s a union member

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By Pete Levine ·

For Michael Henry, being a part of a union is about much more than wages, benefits and the secure retirement that comes with being a member of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE).

“It’s about collective action. It’s about self-determination,” says Henry, a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services payment reviewer. “I signed up to be a member as fast as I could.”

Henry has only been in his current role for about six months and says he was leaning toward joining the union from the get-go.

“I’d seen fliers in the breakroom, and I always intended to go to a union meeting before I joined,” he says.

But during orientation, after hearing his AFSCME representative shed light on the power of the union in the workplace, in the political sphere, at the bargaining table and beyond, it was a no-brainer.

Henry was fascinated to understand through AFSCME meetings how the collective bargaining and contract negotiating processes works, and how political action translates into real improvements in the lives of workers. As he’s immersed himself further in the union, he’s begun to realize that he can play an important role in these matters, too.

From learning how to become a steward to eyeing other opportunities to get involved in his local, Henry says it’s been exciting to see that becoming a union activist isn’t some opaque, complicated process. Rather, the essential ingredient is the desire to want to fight alongside – and for – your fellow workers.

What had once felt abstract now feels within his grasp as a union member.

“It’s totally been worth it to join and to add my voice to the collective point of view,” Henry says. “I would encourage anyone who is even curious to join the union as well.”

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