Why Should We Support Our Union?

Many employees that work for the State of Oregon now have always enjoyed the benefits of a contract that provide a schedule of compensation, health care, dental care, vacation leave, paid sick leave, protection from unfair working conditions and many other items that are in place to govern the relationship between the labor force and management.

For most of the employees in the State workforce today, they have never known a time without this contract. Because of that, they often take these protections for granted. They do not know how hard fought the battles have been to get these items in place. Nor do they realize what could happen if the Union was gone.

It has happened in other states, and there are pressures in Oregon to eliminate the Union, or sometimes, to make union membership optional. What many people do not realize is this: if the union power is dissolved, the contract and all of the benefits and protections that we have always known will also be gone.

Each employee will be vulnerable to the whims of management in order to maintain employment. The State will no longer have to pay you the same wage. They can implement a pay cut immediately, and there is nothing you can do other than to accept it, or quit your job. They can stop providing any and all types of leave. They can make you pay 100% of your health insurance premiums. They can tell you what days and hours you must work, and revise your schedule at their whim. They can make you work more than 8 hours a day without paying overtime–overtime would only be paid if you exceed 40 hours in a week. They could terminate you at any time for any reason they want. You could come to work one day and be told you no longer have a job. And, since there is no Union to provide any protection, you would have no recourse. You would just be without a job.

Research shows that in 2009 unemployment rates were lower in right-to-work states. 8.6% compared to 9.6% in states with unions.

However, in right-to-work states wages average 3.2% lower, health insurance is sponsored 2.6% less often, resulting in 2 million fewer employees being covered and employer-sp0nsored retirement accounts a 4.8% lower.

Some people don’t want to pay union dues. In Oregon, if they do not join the union they still pay a monthly fee called “fair share”. Fair share contributes to the maintainance of the union. It is called fair share because the employee receives all of the same benefits from the contract that full members receive. Every time the contract is renegotiated, every time there is an increase in pay or any other benefit gained by the union, all employees benefit the same.

In a right-to-work state, if one employee does successfully negotiate a raise, no one else will receive a penny. Each employee must negotiate their own compensation, if the employer will agree to negotiate. If not, you are just stuck.

So, even if you do not believe that the Union is beneficial, the working conditions benefits and compensation you enjoy today are all because of the Union. They balance on a fragile precipice and would be gone in an instant if the Union was gone.

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