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  • Union Education 101

    There are several threads going on regarding unions. Each of them have people with the same common misinformation about unions from whatever source they get. The views about union membership or not will differ as well as opinions. I am pro-union but my reasoning for this thread is to provide some basic education and also address some misconceptions.


    First, the basic concept of a union is the looking out of the collective good of all. Unions were formed because of disparities in pay of people working and those in charge. People believed the efforts of their labor was worth something especially when producing a profit that owners didn't fairly share. The working conditions prior to unions were deplorable, you had people working long hours for minimal pay, workers in factory towns that were paid in script with overinflated prices at the company store. At the end of the week they typically owed the company money. You had children working in factories, days were long and wages poor, and conditions unsafe in many places.

    Enter the unions. It was found that when labor withheld their labor efforts the company was not producing a profit. The owners were not seeing the huge profits as before, so you had unions to level the playing field to discuss terms in which labor and management can agree. In majority of cases then, as well as today, workers get a fair wage and benefits for their work and owners and execs do get their rewards as well. It was unions who pushed forth candidates to create legislation protecting workers, thus creating the 40 hr work week, child labor laws, etc. It was the unions who worked to improve safety conditions in the workplace.

    On the public sector side of things, workers like police and firefighters, and municipal workers were at the mercy of politicians and politics. You had firefighters who lived at fire stations with a very minimal time off because of the work rules. The first firefighters unions organized to combat such control and to establish fairness. Back then, as today, politicians did not want to spend any more money and having people like firefighters work days on end, also led to safety issues for firefighters and the public. It was efforts of union firefighters to push safer workplaces with new, modern fire equipment, better protection gear and even the SCBA.

    Fast forward to today and it is union firefighters also leading the charge in innovations. The IAFF has partnered and is working on designing a new "flat pack" SCBA which can be the future of the fire service. It was the union firefighters who recognized the dangers of the job and sought for and won presumptive cancer, and heart/lung legislation in many states. It was the efforts of firefighters to fight for a decent wage and retirement so firefighters could actually afford to live in their communities.






    Now some issues about dues and membership. In some states there is what is called "Right to Work" in which it is the employees choice if they want to belong to a union or not. In other states there is "Fair Share" in which you pay union dues irregardless if you choose to be a member or not. In such places, one can elect NOT to be a union member, but the dues are still collected and they fall under the same contract conditions.

    In many workplaces with a union, the union and mgmt sit down to talk about terms of employement. A contract is negotiated and the union/mgmt contract is the documentation spelling out how operations are done. For all the union issues, there are many mgmt rights as well and that are spelled out in the contract. For instance OT call in procedures is addressed so that it is fair and not just those closer to mgmt get called in etc. A contract also defines how promotions are done, how many people can take vacation at one time and so on.

    Since the contract is the recognized documentation and it was the union efforts and mgmt that sat down to agree on it, all people fall under it. A contract should define management rights as well as worker rights. The issue of Fair Share is that since everyone benefits by such language they pay their dues, regardless if they want to be union or not. As mentioned, one can elect not to be part of the union, but dues are collected with Fair Share, so why not be part of it and have a voice?

    Now in a right to work state, it is the choice of the individual to choose to be a part of the union of not, however, if there is a recognized contract between union and mgmt, then one not paying dues can be equivucated to freeloading. They still enjoy the fruits of the contract without paying their share. In a sense it would be like a tax-exempt entity in the community. They still enjoy the same services as other taxpayers, but don't pay their share.





    Now when a union negotiates with management, there are many non-fiscal things which can be negotiated on. Which means unions are not just about getting more money or more benefits. For instance if mgmt wants to implement a mandatory workout time for all duty personnel, the union can ask for another person to be in a vacation block, or to have members be able to bid station assignments. The reverse is also true financially, if mgmt wants a higher pct to healthcare, a no raise, or asking for concessions, the union can agree to such concessions but ask for a no-layoff clause. Conversly the union could ask for specialty pay for duties and mgmt could ask for residency requirements and so forth. Basically there is give and take, the notion that unions are making outrageous demands and breaking companies or communities is not always accurate. There are always two sides to any agreement.






    As for dues going to political issues, this is completely wrong and the information being submitted about this is wrong. It is illegal for a union to use members dues for political purposes. Dues pay for union business and representation. Typically the union officers are paid a stipend for their duties they do. Dues go towards union business like sending membership to convention to discuss union issues, sending people to classes for union issues, funding union functions like holiday parties, recognition dinners, etc. Funds pay for legal representation retainers, etc. Majority of funds go towards a savings to be used to fund potential legal issues or arbitrations. Such funds can be used to launch campaigns like TV radio ads to fight against staffing reductions or brownouts. The dues can not go towards any political campaign.

    For political campaigns a union can establish a Political Action Conduit (PAC) and/or political action committees. It is up to the member to put forth their own money to such funds. When the PAC wants to use the funds, they must ask permission from the contributor if they can use the funds. If the member does not agree with the views of the candidate and refuses to allow the PAC to use their money, the PAC can not use it. In fact anyone, even in a PAC, has to be documented by dollar contribution and there are limits as well.

    The notion that unions dues are funding political campaings is wrong and it is unlawful to do so. For any funds to be used in a campaign explicit permission has to be granted by a member, which is why such PAC funds are created.




    Union officers are elected by the membership and fill roles like President, VP, Sec/Treasurer as well as head certain committees like Health and Safety, EMS, etc. The union membership has the opportunities to discuss issues within committee or in a union meeting. Everything from committee reports, wage issues, politics, staffing and so forth get discussed and people have a voice. In a personal example it was the membership that decided to not endorse a candidate for mayor even though some principle officers wanted to. It shows there is always a voice for members and a union, like politics is about the people, but one has to show up to have a say as well.


    There is more to things, but I just wanted to cover a basic gist of how things work to answer some questions.
    Last edited by jccrabby3084; 03-14-2011, 02:38 PM.
    The thoughts and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the thoughts and or views of city or dept affiliation.

  • #2
    Excellent post Crabby!!!
    Jason Knecht
    Firefighter/EMT
    Township Fire Dept., Inc.
    Eau Claire, WI

    IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
    http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
    EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

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    • #3
      You've got my vote for thread of the year. Tough competition though going up against the Johnny46 2000 post thread extravaganza.
      IAFF

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      • #4
        Excellent post...
        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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        • #5
          Well explained.

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          • #6
            Good job crabby.

            One of the great paradoxes (or hypocrisy) that always amazed me about my co-workers was their disdain for government.

            They were completely disconnected from the reality that 100% of their compensation was derived from taxation.

            I know several who are enthusiastic self proclaimed tea partiers. I am stunned that they were oblivious to the reality that it was their pay and benefits that are the prime targets of the group they embrace.
            They told me if I voted for Hillary Clinton the president would be emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable. They were right. I voted for Hillary Clinton and got a president that is emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable.

            I'm not saying you're stupid. I'm saying you have bad luck when it comes to thinking.

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            • #7
              Very nice!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by scfire86 View Post
                Good job crabby.

                One of the great paradoxes (or hypocrisy) that always amazed me about my co-workers was their disdain for government.

                They were completely disconnected from the reality that 100% of their compensation was derived from taxation.

                I know several who are enthusiastic self proclaimed tea partiers. I am stunned that they were oblivious to the reality that it was their pay and benefits that are the prime targets of the group they embrace.
                The central point of the "tea party" is that the federal gov't, and in many cases state and local gov't, is doing too much. And in order to do so gov't is extracting (by force) too of the wealth from the back pocket of individuals and business.

                Those involved in ESSENTIAL local services (fire/police) can certainly object to other BS a gov't entity proposes to undertake. The is nothing illogical about such a position.

                After arriving at an NEW concept of what is ESSENTIAL, communities have to have a debate on how much to spend, including pay rates, for such essential services.

                If is an inescapable truth that the Fed gov't certainly has been doing to much and for decades has been spending way beyond it's (our) means and it must be fixed. It can not continue. The system is broken and we are functionally bankrupt.

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                • #9
                  Good post jc! I'm a volley in my south east TX suburb, and an elected Local Secretary-Treasurer of my professional career field. You nailed the big points quite well. My trade union, like cops and FF's, are predictably conservative. It blows me away that they don't understand the Wisconsin issue. (Of course they don't apply anti labor laws to FF and cops, they have a conservative vote!) However, I have yet to meet a paid FF that thinks he's getting paid too much, and should give some of that back to the community they protect.

                  We need to keep educating everyone that Unions can literally saves the local economy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by neiowa View Post
                    The central point of the "tea party" is that the federal gov't, and in many cases state and local gov't, is doing too much. And in order to do so gov't is extracting (by force) too of the wealth from the back pocket of individuals and business.

                    Those involved in ESSENTIAL local services (fire/police) can certainly object to other BS a gov't entity proposes to undertake. The is nothing illogical about such a position.

                    After arriving at an NEW concept of what is ESSENTIAL, communities have to have a debate on how much to spend, including pay rates, for such essential services.

                    If is an inescapable truth that the Fed gov't certainly has been doing to much and for decades has been spending way beyond it's (our) means and it must be fixed. It can not continue. The system is broken and we are functionally bankrupt.
                    Really farmboy? Can you tell me which tea party group or rhetoric cites their support of police and firefighter pay and benefits?

                    You're living in a dream world if you don't believe that group has their eyes on how much they can take out of your wallet.
                    They told me if I voted for Hillary Clinton the president would be emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable. They were right. I voted for Hillary Clinton and got a president that is emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable.

                    I'm not saying you're stupid. I'm saying you have bad luck when it comes to thinking.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Crabby, excellent post. However, I think that you might add a little more to the section about the Right-to-Work states in which there is no collective bargaining or contracts, such as Virginia. We do have unions, but they take on a slightly different role than those in most other states.
                      Career Fire Captain
                      Volunteer Chief Officer


                      Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

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                      • #12
                        I guess it was those Tea Partiers who threw out the promotion test in New Haven because the rainbow of diversity was not properly represented.
                        Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by snowball View Post
                          You've got my vote for thread of the year. Tough competition though going up against the Johnny46 2000 post thread extravaganza.

                          I agree on both points above. Excellent post crabby

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
                            Crabby, excellent post. However, I think that you might add a little more to the section about the Right-to-Work states in which there is no collective bargaining or contracts, such as Virginia. We do have unions, but they take on a slightly different role than those in most other states.
                            Right to work doesn't necessarily mean no unions or contracts, just no obligation on the part of the employee.http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by neiowa View Post
                              The central point of the "tea party" is that the federal gov't, and in many cases state and local gov't, is doing too much. And in order to do so gov't is extracting (by force) too of the wealth from the back pocket of individuals and business.

                              Those involved in ESSENTIAL local services (fire/police) can certainly object to other BS a gov't entity proposes to undertake. The is nothing illogical about such a position.

                              After arriving at an NEW concept of what is ESSENTIAL, communities have to have a debate on how much to spend, including pay rates, for such essential services.

                              If is an inescapable truth that the Fed gov't certainly has been doing to much and for decades has been spending way beyond it's (our) means and it must be fixed. It can not continue. The system is broken and we are functionally bankrupt.
                              So...how are those billions of farm subsidies?
                              ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                              Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

                              Comment

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