As many long-time members begin to retire and new workers come on board into their professional positions, PROTEC17 is looking to learn what younger members want to see in their union, and to find ways to engage them in leadership roles.

This summer, PROTEC17’s intern Xochi Suarez, set up two focus groups of young members to get their feedback – one in King County and one at the Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) in Tri-Cities, Washington. Questions for the focus group ranged from “What was your first impression of the union?” to “what do you want out of your union experience?” and “what’s the best way to communicate with you?”

Suarez, an education major at the University of Washington, came to PROTEC17 from the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) Union Summer program, which places college students at unions across the state to learn about Labor and union work. In her short stint at PROTEC17, she hit the ground running, developing the focus group questions, coordinating logistics, and recruiting young members to join though phone calls and emails.

About 17 members in all provided their feedback. Some of the major take-aways were on the topics of communication strategies, social events and opportunities to connect, targeted asks, and why young members may be hesitant to get involved.

For communication, young members expressed more interest in texting and Instagram than emails and Facebook. The young members in the focus groups were also very interested in social and volunteer events with their peers across the union.

As for involvement, they suggested having more targeted asks (i.e. issue- or interest-based meetings), or just asking them directly to engage in something specific.
Additional feedback was that the focus-group setting appealed to younger members as it is more specific than a broad chapter meeting, where they feel like they don’t have significant contributions to make because it appears that things are all taken care of by long-time members.

Members across both focus groups expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to give feedback. King County members were excited to meet other young professional colleagues – some sitting in the same building – that they didn’t know.

“The input from these members was incredibly constructive and valuable, and will definitely play a role in shaping the PROTEC17 strategic plan for 2020-2022,” said Executive Director Karen Estevenin, who attended the BFHD focus group.

Because of the success of the focus groups, there will likely be many more opportunities for young members to give input and to get more involved. If you’re interested in meeting other young members or you’re a long-time member who’d like to get younger members involved in your activities, reach out to Organizer Melissa Mafua at