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Diary of a Garbage Woman: Three Reasons to Pay Dues

We have all heard that the best way to protect yourself during tumultuous economic times is to secure and grow an emergency fund. Sure that sounds great. It easier said than done with kids in college, private school, mortgages, increased taxes, and even a movie night costing $100. We all have a couple bucks stashed away but enough to weather job termination? suspensions? salary decrease? Just pause for a moment and check that savings account. Do you feel just a little apprehension or is it a full blown panic attack? Unions have been the backbone of the world’s workers for more reasons than most members can truly name.  A national Right to Work law will allow union members to stop paying dues while receiving  union benefits. That won’t last long with astronomical legal fees to fight contract abuses, grievances and wage abuses. The river will eventually run dry for all of us.  Just try feeding 11 million people when only a few are producing the food. It’s impossible.  Dues fund our representation to block erroneous terminations and suspensions, enable anti-privatization campaigns (the mass majority of unions are public sector) and ensure salary growth.  

What would you do if you were suspended or terminated? First, you would call the union. They would immediately file a grievance on your behalf and begin the sometimes lengthy legal battle for you.  The union doesn’t require a retainer-that’s why dues are paid.  The average retainer and fees for lawyers representation for a wrongful termination suit is $14,000. A grievance procedure would still cost half of that. Just think about it.  You’re now out of work or suspended.  No money coming in, the emergency fund depleting by the day and the lawyer won’t file without the $500 filing fee. Or possibly the $250 motion fee.  The costs will add up quicker than expected. What is the easiest option-paying dues is paying yourself.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics public sector unions are five times higher than private with non-union workers making 80% and below of unionized public sector workers.  Private garbage collectors average $33,000 a year compared to $45,000 and up for union public sector.  Privatization campaign costs millions of dollars. Entire law firms including huge public relations departments employ thousands to dole out public union jobs to the lowest bidder. Over $1.5 trillion dollars are now contracted away from full time public sector work forces to underpaid and benefit-less privates.  Dues allow our unions to hire powerful law firms with public relations teams. Dues fund contract campaigns increasing politicians awareness of our work and our worth. The stronger campaign, always the highest funded, the stronger our job security.

Dues pay our salaries, not the government or companies we are contracted to by our union contracts. Pay up or lose. Lose benefits, possible salary decrease as a non-union employee and pay more for benefits. Put your money where your job is.

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