There needs to be a questioned answered, “What is this union about?” Are we a lobbyist or are we a member driven organization who protects workers’ rights?
In the big picture unions are an endangered species and have lost their way. In the news, we are now on the clock for a decision by the Supreme Court (https://www.cir-usa.org/cases/friedrichs-v-california-teachers-association-et-al/) that could gut the public sector unions. The very question of union viability lies on its membership, but are we just dues payers or are we a political lobby that has members attached?
Historically, the labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired. In our local, our union has moved away from some of the principals that make unions strong; like all things outside of collective bargaining.
Both parties receive monies generated through our PAC fund, with varying amounts decided by our lobbyist. The common reason given is that these politicians support transportation; but is that a good explanation or a quick answer to inquiries? As some of have asked, what do we get for this expenditure, so far no such answer. Some of these politicians despise unions especially the public sector, some only care about endorsements of which money gets attached to their campaigns; but what about the front line workers?
Maybe it’s time to return to the foundation of what unions are for and that’s re-investing in its membership. Our retirees took a reduction in their medical, from 90% to 80% and in that 10% the company seen fit to reduce the overall benefits to match those of the non-union side (which does not have the same health challenges). The company also offers a 90% plan for those who wanted to keep a high deductible, but that plan is not the same plan that workers had before. The premium costs were transferred to the employee, saving the company money; which looks good on a spread sheet, but what about the human cost. As a union we talk about our retirees in the abstract or worse a talking-point.
We publish retirees’ reduction of benefits in our Labor Press, but to what end; it’s all talk with no action. We negotiated these reductions so it is our responsibility to do something about it, and we’re not just talking the next negotiations, we’re talking about helping those who were hit the hardest. Most know that prescription costs have gone up with the reduction of the medical benefits, under the current plan (as shown the latest Labor Press) prescription costs were at $7, under the reduction it’s a $10 copay (which is not a flat rate). It’s time that we help supplement some of these costs on our members who were hit the hardest. But let’s be specific for a second, we’re not talking a prescription discount card (the ones that mysteriously appeared to be associated with ATU757). Those discount cards we used to receive. Those cards were not signed off by the membership but kept showing up. Here is the caveat; some card marketers gather personal information on people who use their card. They can do this if you have to register to obtain a card. They can also receive personal information each time you use the card. For example, a company selling diabetic supplies would pay for a list of names and addresses of people who buy insulin. Who sold our addresses to these groups…..hmm?
Lastly, we should be helping our retirees and not the politicians with that amount of money, investing in those members who have put in the work for a lot of years only to have their health compromised by the inability to afford the simplest or the most complicated medications that they used to be able to afford. A politician will have no effect (outside the governor) on our negotiations so why the need to contribute to their causes. Benefits have to be forefront in future negotiations but in the meantime our focus should be on our union members who are hardest hit.
Your Brother on the front lines.