There is a great book, a pamphlet really, written by E. Ronald Fishman titled “The Union Worker’s Bible.” In this small tome is a wealth of answers to some of the questions a brother or sister working in an unorganized company might ask as well as answers that we working in organized companies take for granted.
Because we take our benefits, retirement, wages and education in this great trade as a given it is easy to develop a disconnect as to what it means to be a good union member and what exactly it is that the IUEC does on our behalf. Here are some points to ponder.
The IUEC negotiates and enforces the contract. The contract is an agreement between the union and the companies that spells out wages, benefits and work rules and conditions that both sides must abide by. Without representation you would be at the mercy of the companies as to what they offer. In the second year of the current contract, the company pays $27.085 per hour on our behalf in benefits. How many people do you know in unorganized companies that make that as their hourly wage and then pay for their own benefits? Think about it.
Settles your grievances. When someone is unjustly disciplined, shorted on wages or benefits, or the company violates the work rules, the union stands behind its members in the same way an agent and legal team stands behind celebrities and sports figures when there is a contract dispute. If you worked in an unorganized company, you would have to hire your own attorney that may or may not be familiar with labor law. Do you really want to put your future in the hands of an amateur?
Organizes our unorganized brothers and sisters. The heart of any organization is its ability to grow. By organizing our unorganized brothers and sisters, the IUEC grows its membership, makes the life of the new members instantly better through wages, benefits and schooling through NEIEP. The companies, in exchange, gain access to new markets and a predicable cost structure for the term of the contract. It really is a win for everyone.
Provides insurances, retirement benefits, etc. If you come to the retiree’s dinner, talk to the former members about the quality of life they have in their retirement. Compare that to retirees that worked in offices or unorganized companies. There are several Local 17 members whose loved ones have been helped through the health benefits to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars a year and there is at least one million dollar wife whose life was saved through the medical benefits we have. What would be the 80/20 copay on your medical benefits?
Supports fair labor legislation. Local 17, in conjunction with ACT OHIO and the International, is actively working to educate legislators about the evils of right-to-work-for-less and turning jobs that went non-union to employing a union workforce. We have had success on the local level with project labor agreements (PLAs) and prevailing wage laws to keep the bar high in Cleveland for all organized workers.
Keeps you informed about its activities. Local 17 has at least four opportunities to keep informed about what is going on. First is the Elevator Constructor, the magazine you are holding right now. Second is the Labor Citizen published by the North Shore Federation of Labor and distributed to union members in northern Ohio. Third is the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, which has news, photos, articles and the AFL-CIO RSS feed. Last, and most important, is to attend the union meetings. They are at 6 pm on the second Friday except for August.
Make it a point to be there.
The IUEC is your union. You will get out of it what you put into it.
Till next month,
Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.