Local union meetings provide members the opportunity to join regularly as a group to learn about the union, ask each other questions, and propose new ideas. If you attend a Local 1306 meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, you will also quickly see the efforts being made to accommodate cultural diversity. Local 1306 is unlike any other local in the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.
Local 1306 meets the fourth Tuesday of every month. With over 500 members, their February gathering demonstrated their uniqueness inside and outside of the meeting. Waiting to cross the meeting room’s threshold, a record number of nearly 110 members crowded the Omaha Campus hallway; a line extending out of the door and down two flights of stairs. Members patiently waited for the assembly to start, nearly 30-minutes late once everyone was seated
Looking around the room, one quickly noticed that Local 1306 is more diverse than any other local throughout the Regional Council. With nearly 60% of members being Latino and Spanish speaking, meetings are conducted in three different languages. Through the use of Spanish and American Sign Language interpreters, members, regardless of language, comfortably speak on a variety of subject matters and are provided a thorough explanation of everything before any voting occurs.
Ernesto Morgan, a member of 1306 since 2017, knows the importance of belonging to a union. “The union saved my life,” said Morgan. Based upon his good wages and benefits, he qualified for a mortgage and was able to leave his apartment. He supports his family, has good credit and has access to an education that helps him gain and build on his trade skills. Morgan shares the importance of belonging to this union to his Hispanic brothers and sisters. “They speak up and spread the word in support of our union,” said Morgan.
Morgan is proud of the diversity within Local 1306 and the large number of Hispanics who attend the monthly meetings. “We go to see what is going on, what opportunities there are and what is happening in our cities. Hispanics care about their work.” He feels comfortable speaking with and in front of his peers and appreciates the ability to ask the interpreter questions and have them answered. Morgan speaks with his union brothers and sisters every day to make sure they are always informed and on the same page, even if they can’t make it to a meeting.
An American Sign Language interpreter is also present at Local 1306’s meetings to accommodate members who are have a hearing impairment. With multiple interpreters in the room, elected members on the Local Executive Board are very diligent in checking around the room with everyone before any vote is taken. If members have questions or do not understand an issue, extra time is provided to ensure they are informed. The February meeting was no different. Members spent over two hours at the Local meeting and spoke up to have their voices heard. They stayed to support each other and their unique differences.
“I love that everybody is involved. Everyone gets a chance to speak and is treated the same in our meetings. At the worksite, I know these brothers and sisters have my back. We have a strong bond,” said Sesha Gotto, a member since 2019.
For some, it is the bond with their fellow brothers and sisters. For others, it is the ability to vote or obtain information. One thing is clear, Local 1306 takes extra time to communicate across different cultures in a diverse environment and that speaks volumes to its members.