Author Topic: Union card: to sign or not to sign?  (Read 2408 times)

PoutineLover

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Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« on: August 30, 2018, 11:15:47 AM »
So my workplace employee association has launched a union drive and is asking members to sign up. We already pay a small amount in voluntary "association fees" but not dues, and we don't have a collective agreement or anything formal, but there is a small council that will advocate for us if need be. They have proposed joining another union at my workplace, where currently almost all other employees are unionized, in a variety of different unions with different collective agreements. I'm torn on whether to sign or not, because I'm not convinced that joining a union will be in my favour, or the favour of our entire group, including the members of the union we are supposed to be joining.
If we unionize, my dues will become mandatory and more than double. I already get decent benefits and I'm not sure that they will improve with a union. I don't have job security as I work on contract, but I'm not sure if the union will get me that either. Apparently the union has higher raises in their collective agreement than we currently get, but only if you aren't at the top of your pay scale. Many people complain that we have to do unpaid overtime, but I have never been asked to, and I wouldn't anyway.
Basically, I don't feel like I'm currently being mistreated by my employer, I don't see how having a union will make a positive difference, since it might just make a more adversarial situation, and I can see my pay going down due to the increased dues, while not necessarily being offset by bigger wage increases. How should I decide? I'm not opposed to unions, I do think they have done important work, but in my personal experience, they are often run by incompetent people who don't always have their member's best interests at heart.
Anyone have experience with this sort of thing? What information would you seek out before making a decision?

wonkette

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2018, 11:59:33 AM »
Do it. People working together can always do more than people working alone. And even though you're currently in a good relationship with your employer, that can change and you want to have a larger group of people on your side. On union leadership: do you know the leadership of THIS union? Do you think they're incompetent? Do you think they care? Do you think the general membership is incompetent? For better or worse unions are a democracy. If you don't respect your colleagues you're probably not going to respect your union.


robartsd

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2018, 12:04:29 PM »
Unions that used to rely on forced payments from government employees are trying to make up for lost revenue due to the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. If it is a chapter of one of these big national unions, resist as much as you can! Convince your fellow association members that it is a bad idea. Has anyone considered getting the association into a collective bargaining role while remaining independent of other unions (either converting it to an independent union or getting the employer to enter a collective bargaining agreement with the voluntary association)?

I definitely support the right for workers to organize voluntarily, but I dislike forced unionization. I hope that the Supreme Court will eventually destroy forced union participation altogether (currently legal to require union dues in private sector unless the state has "right to work" laws).

letired

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2018, 12:15:47 PM »
I'd do it. I'd also at least ask your leadership some of these questions (ie what are the benefits over what you have now) or if I was feeling really frisky, get involved in the union leadership yourself to get the things you want out of your membership. Collective bargaining works, which is why there are a lot of people lining up to give it a bad name, but like democracy, you only get a group as functional as the level of participation by its members.

Fishindude

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2018, 12:27:45 PM »
Basically, I don't feel like I'm currently being mistreated by my employer, I don't see how having a union will make a positive difference, since it might just make a more adversarial situation, and I can see my pay going down due to the increased dues, while not necessarily being offset by bigger wage increases.

You answered your own question. 
All the union will do is cost you money and make things adversarial.

PoutineLover

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2018, 12:28:48 PM »
Do it. People working together can always do more than people working alone. And even though you're currently in a good relationship with your employer, that can change and you want to have a larger group of people on your side. On union leadership: do you know the leadership of THIS union? Do you think they're incompetent? Do you think they care? Do you think the general membership is incompetent? For better or worse unions are a democracy. If you don't respect your colleagues you're probably not going to respect your union.
I don't know the leadership of this union all that well. I used to be on the board of my old union, and most people weren't that financially savvy but they had good intentions. I do respect my coworkers, and this might be a situation where just because I don't currently need it doesn't mean I never will, and that some people do need it so it might help everyone. There's another situation with my old union where they made a complaint in a case that affected me, and the end settlement is going to be less than what it would have been if they had just left it alone. The details aren't public yet, and maybe it helped some other people more, but I selfishly wish they would have just let it go ahead as it was initially supposed to. Unions might be a democracy, but just because 51% of people vote for something doesn't mean it's good for everyone. There was a long, contentious strike a few years back with this union and I would hate for something like that to happen again (but I wouldn't cross the picket line even if I did vote against it).
Unions that used to rely on forced payments from government employees are trying to make up for lost revenue due to the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. If it is a chapter of one of these big national unions, resist as much as you can! Convince your fellow association members that it is a bad idea. Has anyone considered getting the association into a collective bargaining role while remaining independent of other unions (either converting it to an independent union or getting the employer to enter a collective bargaining agreement with the voluntary association)?

I definitely support the right for workers to organize voluntarily, but I dislike forced unionization. I hope that the Supreme Court will eventually destroy forced union participation altogether (currently legal to require union dues in private sector unless the state has "right to work" laws).
I do think that unions only work if everyone joins them and pays their part, and if this goes ahead without my specific consent I'll still abide by the decision. I don't think we can get a collective bargain without being a union, but that's something I can ask about. We would be joining a much larger national union as well as our local chapter, and over half of our dues would go to the parent union, which also kinda bugs me. They aren't proposing making our own union, because one of their main arguments is strength in numbers, so we would be more powerful if we join the existing union.
I'd do it. I'd also at least ask your leadership some of these questions (ie what are the benefits over what you have now) or if I was feeling really frisky, get involved in the union leadership yourself to get the things you want out of your membership. Collective bargaining works, which is why there are a lot of people lining up to give it a bad name, but like democracy, you only get a group as functional as the level of participation by its members.
We don't know what the benefits will be because we have to negotiate a new collective agreement if we do join. The current one expires in a few months, and they won't negotiate it until we've decided whether or not we are joining. So none of the proposed benefits will be decided until the negotiations happen, so as much as the union wants to push for certain benefits, they can't guarantee anything. We know their priorities (at least what they told us) but I don't expect us to get everything, especially not on our first try.

Zikoris

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2018, 02:35:03 PM »
I wouldn't. I want nothing to do with unions. Having worked in a job with a union once, I will never do it again.

the_fella

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2018, 05:04:53 PM »

I hope that the Supreme Court will eventually destroy forced union participation altogether (currently legal to require union dues in private sector unless the state has "right to work" laws).

So you want the benefits of unionization without paying for them? Sounds legit.

Goldielocks

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2018, 05:33:32 PM »
I wouldn't unless:

1) There are safety issues or other significant HR issues that are in dire need of addressing and the company seems to be AWOL in talking about them.  Unions are great at getting employers to start talking about these sorts of issues.

2) You would never want to go to your employer and ask for a raise or an extra week of vacation because of your personal value to the company.   This is a huge perk of being independent - the ability to be paid / compensated based on your own merits, including, often the ability to ask for slightly different benefits (work from home, flex hours, vacation, education reimbursement, travel expense account) that suit you, personally, better.   I mean, if you are a contractor, don't you have the opportunity to renew constantly?  Would not that be lost with unionization and set payscales based on years of seniority instead of value?

3)  Typically you would instantly lose out on any current profit sharing or bonus structures as soon as a union is put in place.  if not overtly, then because the unions cost the company money to negotiate / hold talks with....


The comment upthread about looking at the overall union organization you will join is a great one.  If you are to be a quite small player in a large national organized union, there is limited attention, time, resources that the union leadership will give to you UNLESS you become pivotal in making a statement for a larger group soon to go to negotiation.  I have seen small/tiny divisions encouraged to strike (for over a year!) just to make negotiations for a larger group elsewhere more assertive.  The small guys were left out to dry with tiny strike pay for their time and effort and the larger group never lost a day.  YMMV

WalkaboutStache

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2018, 01:07:49 AM »

Basically, I don't feel like I'm currently being mistreated by my employer


Just because the tiger has not tried to eat you yet, that does not mean it is vegetarian.

I am not a huge fan of unions.  As any large organization, their primary interest is self-preservation and your own interests are subsidiary to that.  Having said that, employers typically rank your interests even lower than unions.  I assume you are in the US, and with labor laws being as weak as they are the membership may be the only (imperfect) protection you have. 

PoutineLover

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2018, 06:13:14 AM »

Basically, I don't feel like I'm currently being mistreated by my employer


Just because the tiger has not tried to eat you yet, that does not mean it is vegetarian.

I am not a huge fan of unions.  As any large organization, their primary interest is self-preservation and your own interests are subsidiary to that.  Having said that, employers typically rank your interests even lower than unions.  I assume you are in the US, and with labor laws being as weak as they are the membership may be the only (imperfect) protection you have.
I'm in Canada so our labour laws are pretty good as far as I can tell. I recognize that I may need the help of a union one day, that's one reason I'd sign. But I think there are cons too.
Honestly whether I sign or not may not even matter, they need 51% of members to sign cards, or if 35% sign we get a vote and if 50% of voters say yes we're all in it. I haven't decided either way, so I'm trying to figure out whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

maizefolk

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2018, 06:47:58 AM »
Apparently the union has higher raises in their collective agreement than we currently get, but only if you aren't at the top of your pay scale.
...

Anyone have experience with this sort of thing? What information would you seek out before making a decision?

Are you one of the top performers in your position?

Is the type the work you do something where individual effort produces results largely independent of how hard your your colleagues are working? (lawyers, teachers, bartenders)

Or one where it is really hard separate the best workers from the average ones? (Think of folks working on an assembly line, were productivity is dictated by the slowest person so there little no difference in value to your employer between an average employee and an extremely productive one.)

If you're an exceptional performer in a field where individual performance matters, a union is probably not going to help you, and may well introduce policies that are going to hurt you like pay and layoff order based on seniority rather than performance. If you're a below average performer or work in a field where it is tough to judge individual performance and/or individual performance doesn't produce additional value once you're above some baseline, then a (well run) union is likely going to benefit you.

Peachtea

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2018, 06:57:34 AM »
Youíre in an awesome position to make an informed decision. Talk with employees at your work who are currently represented by this union and see if theyíre happy or not. Make sure you ask why.  The quality of your local representatives is key. Being part of a large union has benefits like the institutional knowledge and ability to organize employees and help bargain the first contract, providing model contracts and resources for local reps, and then policing labor related laws and policies on a national level. But your local reps, especially in unions that have a more grass roots view point on how they should operate, are likely going to be doing all the day to day stuff and most, if not all, the negotiating.

Ask for a copy of the contract. Not sure in Canada, but in the US you would be covered by the expired contractís mandatory terms until a new one is bargained. And the they usually donít completely rewrite the contract, so any non-economic terms are likely to be similar if not the same in the new one. So you can see what kind of non-economic benefits your likely to have. Think lunch breaks, flexible work schedules, overtime procedures, vacation days etc.

You mentioned a pay scale that is more than yours but you donít know what the new one will look like. Well, Iíd ask for a copy regardless and compare the current pay scale and increases to what you have. Is it more? Because unless the company is doing poorly usually the pay rate isnít going to go down with a new contract. You might not know how much more, maybe only a little. But if you would be doing better on their current pay table, then I would think the odds are likely that you will also do better under the new one.

You know what the unionís priorities for the new contract are, but what about managements? Ask the union if they know what changes management wants to make. That way you have a heads up of what might change in the contract.

I would also look at your local structure and the coworkers you would be joining. Is the current group the union represents much larger than your group theyíre trying to add? If itís a large group, are they predominantly one position or department or a mix of positions and departments? Iíd be wary of being an add on to a large group of one position type. Because while theyíre not supposed to, internal politics will lean towards the union caring more about the larger group if the two groups have different interests in a particular matter. The rationale being more people will be happy if we do x. If itís an add on to a large group of one position type (different than your own), try to think of what the possible conflicts could be and if they matter to you.

Finally, Iíll note that a lot of people donít think theyíll ever need the union until they do. People whoíve never had performance or discipline problems until three years later they get a nit picky supervisor sending memos on things like the font employees must use in emails (I wish this wasnít a real example). Or people who have something bad happen in their personal life, unexpected death or illness in the family, and now are having performance issues or need to use a lot of leave and itís being denied. But circling back, how helpful the union will be in these situations depends on how good your local reps are.

partdopy

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2018, 07:07:12 AM »
If you're in a position that requires education and skills a union won't benefit you.

They only benefit those whose job skills don't command value on their own, only by threatening their employer with a sudden loss of all labor which will grind production to a halt until labor is replaced

SillyPutty

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2018, 07:16:47 AM »
If you're in a position that requires education and skills a union won't benefit you.

They only benefit those whose job skills don't command value on their own, only by threatening their employer with a sudden loss of all labor which will grind production to a halt until labor is replaced

So you don't think teacher unions benefit educators?

Unions benefit those who want equitable compensation, safe working conditions, fair treatment. So, in other words, just about everyone.

WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2018, 07:17:54 AM »
I am a unionized employee and I make more than 1 1/2 times what non-unionized employees in my same field make, including the cost of my union dues. I watch my non-unionized colleagues working second and third jobs to make ends meet and I am quite grateful for my union.

PoutineLover

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2018, 07:26:18 AM »
Ok, so the union we are joining (the local chapter) is smaller than my employee group, so we would outnumber them. But the larger collective is huge, and my old union was part of that group too. They provide legal advice, probably help negotiate, and would help pay for a strike (from a fund we contribute to).
The group we would be joining is clerical, and mine is managerial. My job is knowledge based. We are judged on our individual performance, and receive raises based on that. Our pay scales overlap but they start out lower and cap out lower, and our scales have wider ranges. It would be difficult to combine them fairly. In terms of vacation, benefits, flexibility, it's currently similar if not the same, I'd have to look into the specifics.
The combining of managers and support staff is odd to me, since we would be in the same group as the people we supervise. It seems like a conflict of interest, but the union board says it's not. They want to bring a larger group to negotiations, but I don't know whose demands would take priority. I am going to read their collective agreement, it's online, and our benefits, to see how they differ.

partdopy

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2018, 07:26:26 AM »
If you're in a position that requires education and skills a union won't benefit you.

They only benefit those whose job skills don't command value on their own, only by threatening their employer with a sudden loss of all labor which will grind production to a halt until labor is replaced

So you don't think teacher unions benefit educators?

Unions benefit those who want equitable compensation, safe working conditions, fair treatment. So, in other words, just about everyone.

They're are already existing safety and fair treatment rules.

I believe unions only benefit those who don't have skills that are difficult to learn.  A degree in education is considered one of the easiest to get, and their are tons of terrible teachers. If it was a harder field to get into, and demanded higher quality employees, the employees would demand a higher wage.

There are lots of great teachers who get screwed over because they get paid the same as someone who just wants to do the minimum work and get summer off.  Guess who ensures they are both paid the same? Unions.

J Boogie

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2018, 07:58:09 AM »
Most mustachians will not benefit from unions. You already have your insurance policy for bad upper management, why pay for another?

Unions benefit those who live paycheck to paycheck. You have FU money and can tolerate a much longer jobless period when you need to find a new employer.

If you need a group to police your employer, do you really want to work for them in the first place?

People on this forum occasionally engage in the thought experiment of "What if everyone was a mustachian?"

Well, one of the benefits would be that employers would have to adhere to much higher standards because employees would be far more powerful and could be far more selective. And no one would have to spend their money paying for someone else to stand up to their bully.

No disrespect intended if you have yet to compile a sizable FU stash yet. My liquid stash isn't that big myself. If you don't have cash, and you are not a universally marketable employee, joining this union might be worth considering.

former player

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2018, 08:22:15 AM »
I may be wrong here, but the replies on this thread giving reasons for joining a union seem to be from people who have personal knowledge, whereas the ones against unions seem to be from a more general (political? philosophical?) point of view and not based on personal experience.  Happy to be corrected on that, though - maybe we need a poll?

For what it is worth, I was always in a union while working in public service, and served as an elected (unpaid) officer for some years, negotiating pay and conditions and working on cases for fellow employees.  The replies in favour of unions pretty much already set out all the reasons I would give for joining.  I was in a professional position: being a professional or manager does not in itself protect anyone from crappy management and unfair employment practices, and it is just about impossible for a single person to effectively counteract the power of a big organisation without a formal support system behind them.

FIRE@50

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #20 on: August 31, 2018, 08:32:03 AM »
I would never join a union. If I worked for a company that treated me poorly, I would go work for a different company.

maizefolk

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #21 on: August 31, 2018, 08:44:33 AM »
I may be wrong here, but the replies on this thread giving reasons for joining a union seem to be from people who have personal knowledge, whereas the ones against unions seem to be from a more general (political? philosophical?) point of view and not based on personal experience.  Happy to be corrected on that,

I'm not sure which camp you're putting my reply in, but for what its worth I've been represented by a union for two years (a branch of the UAW of all things), and have worked in non-unionized positions for the rest of my career.

partdopy

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #22 on: August 31, 2018, 09:28:13 AM »
I may be wrong here, but the replies on this thread giving reasons for joining a union seem to be from people who have personal knowledge, whereas the ones against unions seem to be from a more general (political? philosophical?) point of view and not based on personal experience.  Happy to be corrected on that, though - maybe we need a poll?

I've been represented by a union before.  It helped some people who either didn't have the job skills or negotiation skills to command a higher wage.  All it did for me was cost money and result in things like not being allowed to move my own stuff to a new desk because a union employee had to do it.

It isn't the 1900s anymore with company towns and steel mills employing 9 year olds.  If you want more money, vacation time, etc... go get it yourself.  All unions do now is help under performing employees and bankrupt businesses -- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gm-southkorea-unions/gm-says-south-korean-unit-will-file-for-bankruptcy-if-no-union-concessions-by-april-20-idUSKBN1H2321

LaineyAZ

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #23 on: August 31, 2018, 09:40:43 AM »
My vote is to join the union.  Although the workplace and managers are described as not that bad, things can change quickly.  You can wake up to headlines that the entire company is being moved offshore.  Your company could announce drastic benefit reductions.  You could see layoffs at the same time executives are getting generous bonuses.

All of these actions are tempered when employees stand together.  Sure, each of you could negotiate your salary individually, and maybe the very top are well taken care of, but in the long run operating as a group is to everyone's benefit.
(Brings to mind the actions of the principle actors on the TV show "Friends" - didn't they decide to negotiate salaries as a team?)

PoutineLover

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2018, 09:55:18 AM »
I guess I should clarify that I work for a university, so there's no danger of the company moving overseas. We don't exactly operate for profit, we are subsidized by the government, so some of the risks mentioned don't apply. I've been able to negotiate certain benefits for myself, and I already have certain benefits like free tuition, which I've used. My department is very flexible and treats me well, but I've heard about other departments that aren't so good. I'm in favour of making conditions better for others in general, but not necessarily if it makes things worse for me.

robartsd

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2018, 10:10:37 AM »

I hope that the Supreme Court will eventually destroy forced union participation altogether (currently legal to require union dues in private sector unless the state has "right to work" laws).

So you want the benefits of unionization without paying for them? Sounds legit.
No, I want choice in representation. There are some unions that I would gladly join, others that I'll avoid as much as practical. I think many unions are too big and self-serving, creating another large organization that you're forced to deal with as part of employment without providing significant benefit. In general, I think smaller, more focused unions better represent the interests of employees and costs less. My opinions come mostly from working within an HR office that was overseeing a layoff process. The largest union involved seemed to do the least to benefit the employees (and sometimes blocked our attempts to benefit the employees).

As far as strength in numbers goes, I don't think being a chapter of a larger union has any real value in negotiations. The legal resources of the larger union would probably be much more beneficial if in handling grievances that make it to a courtroom.

SillyPutty

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #26 on: August 31, 2018, 03:35:21 PM »
If you're in a position that requires education and skills a union won't benefit you.

They only benefit those whose job skills don't command value on their own, only by threatening their employer with a sudden loss of all labor which will grind production to a halt until labor is replaced

So you don't think teacher unions benefit educators?

Unions benefit those who want equitable compensation, safe working conditions, fair treatment. So, in other words, just about everyone.

They're are already existing safety and fair treatment rules.

I believe unions only benefit those who don't have skills that are difficult to learn.  A degree in education is considered one of the easiest to get, and their are tons of terrible teachers. If it was a harder field to get into, and demanded higher quality employees, the employees would demand a higher wage.

There are lots of great teachers who get screwed over because they get paid the same as someone who just wants to do the minimum work and get summer off.  Guess who ensures they are both paid the same? Unions.

Guess where those "existing safety and fair treatment rules" came from? Unions. And you can thank them for weekends, 8-hour days, child labor laws, sexual harassment laws, breaks, sick leave, insurance, and lots, lots more.

I'm not saying they're perfect, or that everyone has to be in one for every job. I just think you have a distorted view of who's fighting for workers' rights. I don't care how educated and skilled you areóif given the opportunity, most employers want to take advantage of you. Corporations are not going to fight for workers' rights. Workers are.

Also, a degree in education is considered the easiest to get? Come on. Do you think it's the easiest job, too?

ncornilsen

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #27 on: August 31, 2018, 03:45:37 PM »
Once you sign a card, it is hard to unsign it. Even if i supported unionizing, I would not sign the card.

Doubly so if the union is implying violence to your person if you dont. Do not cave to the threats.

Goldielocks

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Re: Union card: to sign or not to sign?
« Reply #28 on: August 31, 2018, 04:32:03 PM »
I guess I should clarify that I work for a university, so there's no danger of the company moving overseas. We don't exactly operate for profit, we are subsidized by the government, so some of the risks mentioned don't apply. I've been able to negotiate certain benefits for myself, and I already have certain benefits like free tuition, which I've used. My department is very flexible and treats me well, but I've heard about other departments that aren't so good. I'm in favour of making conditions better for others in general, but not necessarily if it makes things worse for me.

I am a member of a union, with my job as a PTS instructor for the local technical college.  It is the union for professors / teachers and faculty.   Same union as for all the other universities and colleges in my province.

I have a few issues / concerns, that I would have been able to resolve on my own directly with my manager, except that the union blocks the way.  They want to negotiate these things on behalf of everyone, and talks are only every 3 years, so I need to wait 2 years,  with the changes coming after.  Because my requests are pretty small*,  I know that many of them will be dropped when they go to the agenda of what to talk about with employers, or be negotiated away.

Without the union blocking me, I would also be able to negotiate my own work conditions, how much I am paid for extra course development that reflects the workload, not the units;  I could ask to attend a class for free, maybe even ask to be allowed to park in the faculty parking lot at night... if I was NOT in the union.

Current small issues --  *I have to provide my own computer, to teach, which is causing problems because IT keeps changing the system requirements.  I am on my third laptop in three years and it is getting ridiculous.;  I would like to have access to an on-campus printer that is available after hours, currently we can access photocopier only, no connectivity to the laptops, etc).  I don't get Stat holiday pay because the union negotiated it into the base rate years ago when Part time instructors were actually usually just full time instructors working overtime, etc.

BUT!   My suggestion to not join a union is not just about my current scenario with a union.  I have worked in and out of unions for my career, including quite a few years where I was privy to the Labour Relations Management STrategic decisions and how they negotiated.   Where the give and take was.    The best union environment I saw was with the engineers (and all workers) for the city -- in that case, the union pretty much has ZERO impact on the day to day life of the engineers, other than paying union dues.   They were so far in the background that although there were reps, no one knew who it was.   They helped to negotiate the payscale to always be on track to increase in step with other municipalities.

The bad union impacts can be pretty bad, however.   The second and higher levels up of union reps start to look at lot like bad grandstanding politicians.... ones that cared more about their own image and scorecard than about the actual employees.