February 24, 2011

Serious QOTD

Serious Question of the Day:

If you have ever worked for a union, has it been positive or negative for you?

If positive, why do you believe you cannot bargain effectively for yourself?

Posted by Duffy at February 24, 2011 03:02 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

OK Hube, I'll bite. I not only work under the faculty union at DSU, I am the President.

First off: DSU is not a closed shop. Union membership is strictly voluntary and we represent everyone whether they are a member or not. We also have a no-strike/no-lock-out contract.

Ironically, wage issues are the least important thing I do as union president. Primarily we enforce the existing labor contract, which comes down making the university keep the promises it makes. The university has agreed, for example, the provide a certain level of working equipment to each faculty, to include a computer and internet access. That having been done, the university put virtually all reporting on line. The problem? A year after that the then-President decides we will all still be responsible for all the online reporting, but he's no longer going to repair or replace computers; we have to buy them ourselves. The union makes him back down.

2) The university suddenly gets a wild hair about 6-8 years ago to start charging employees for their parking. We negotiate that if people want to pay and fight over lots right beside their buildings, fine, but that the university always has to maintain free lots for employees on the fringes of campus. Not too big a deal for me, but why should an employer be able to recoup $75-100/year from employees making less than $25K.

3) Due process: we defend due process rights of employees accused of various misdeeds. In education you know just how vulnerable any level of teachers is to this sort of thing. We keep an expert attorney on retainer for the union and force the university to follow the law. We don't defend the guilty on substance, but we do defend those rights. If you think, even at a university, that administrators don't attempt to discipline or terminate people for shitty person reasons, illegal reasons, or without just cause, think again. Happens here about 3-5 times a year, and my bargaining unit only has about 175 people in it.

4) We do the follow-through to insure that the university actually delivers the benefits it promises: like not reneging on tuition-free university attendance for faculty and staff (instead, they tried to charge fees fully equal to the supposed free tuition).

So yes I do see a role for unions and positive accomplishments, even though I am against coerced membership, closed shops, political contributions, etc, etc.

I get really tired when people can't actually discuss the realities of life working for a government agency and just want to do the soundbites (not suggesting that's you).

So you asked a serious question, there's my serious answer.

Posted by: Steve Newton at February 24, 2011 03:27 PM

Not union, don't expect I ever would be.

A lot of the test engineers and techs on post are unionized. It works for them and I don't have a problem with it. They unionized to collectively bargain for salaried pay to even out the "off" periods where schedule or weather prevented work and the "on" periods where they were working like crazy. Prior to unionization, they went long periods with no pay and then received checks when the work picked up (which were capped according to the government pay schedule). Not equitable.

I can see why people are pissed of at public sector unions, but after working for the Feds for several years I understand that governments are often bigger than any corporation. They are just as likely to be exploitative. Unionization gives the employees power against bad government managers, incompetent political appointees, and even attempts by the taxpayer to employ Tyranny of the Majority against public sector employees.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at February 24, 2011 03:37 PM

Unions can provide valuable services to employees, but they need to be reined in in a lot of different areas. For example, they have no business taking members dues and using it to support Democratic candidates-or any other political party, including Republicans.

As far as public employee unions go, they serve one legitimate function, and one only so far as I can discern, and that is to protect public employees from being fired to make room for new employees as a reward for political patronage.

That's it.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at February 24, 2011 05:30 PM

Steve -- this was Duffy's post, not mine. :-)

Posted by: Hube at February 24, 2011 07:01 PM

Ooops, sorry Hube. I'd edit my comment then if I could....

Posted by: Steve Newton at February 24, 2011 07:02 PM

No worries, amigo! :-)

Posted by: Hube at February 24, 2011 07:28 PM

I have never worked for a union. If I had that would have meant that I worked for someone else and that to me is unacceptable.

Posted by: Arthur at February 25, 2011 06:59 AM

@Arthur: Unless you are independently wealthy you work for someone else like it or not.

Posted by: Duffy at February 25, 2011 02:14 PM

I am a non Union framer carpenter in NH. I have been doing this trade on and off for many years. The job is good and I have always felt I was treated fairly. We work in small crews and pretty much do just what we want. I feel that if I were to work for a construction or labor Union, the lack of any kind of production would drive me crazy. I have also heard some pretty bad Union stories from the old Bucks who have been around for a long time. Although I do recognize the benefit of unions, I am prone to disapprove of their advantages and methods.

Posted by: JP Comeau at February 28, 2011 03:41 PM