Bang for your buck (Dues)
Like members of most organizations, we pay dues. Our dues bring large rewards in pay raises, benefits, job security, representation and working conditions. The added pay and benefits workers receive through belonging to the union are much more than the cost of union dues. The dues go to pay for organizers, legal assistance, support staff, rent, materials, etc. which are all needed to maintain good contracts and adequate representation. No one pays dues until workers have voted to accept a contract.
Power in numbers (Contracts)
A union contract is a legal document that spells out your rights, your job security and your benefits. When workers come together and vote for a union, they elect a negotiating committee from among their co-workers to represent them during negotiations. The negotiating committee then draws up a contract proposal, based on meetings, discussions and worker survey results, to present to management. You can negotiate for any and all reasonable items that affect you on your job. Contracts usually last between 3 to 5 years.
In order for the contract to be ratified, a majority of the workers voting need to accept the proposal. If workers feel they haven’t gained enough in the contract, they can reject the contract when it is time to vote. If a majority vote against the contract, the negotiating committee will go back to the bargaining table, or ask the employees to vote on whether or not to strike. Strikes, which require a two-thirds majority vote, are rare and only occur as a last resort. Managers, union leaders, security guards, etc. are not allowed to vote on a contract.
Whether or not to go on strike is a decision made by you and your co-workers. A strike is not authorized unless two-thirds of the workers voting on the contract vote to go on strike.
Strikes are uncommon. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 99% of all contracts are negotiated without strikes. A strike is really only even a possibility if management refuses to negotiate honestly and fairly. Of the thousands of contracts negotiated by UFCW members, less then one percent ever reach a strike situation.
When workers stick together as a union, they have bargaining power and a collective voice that they simply do not have when they are not unionized. Being a member of a union not only gives you a better position to get better wages, benefits and working conditions, you also get job security.
Non-union workers have limited rights and can be fired “at-will”, for no reason. Just because your boss is having a bad day and decides he/she doesn’t want you around anymore. Non-union workers also find that the rules can change at the whim of the employer.
- One day you have paid holidays and vacations and next week you don’t
- A raise is promised but never given
- You’ve got too many hours one week but the next you’re not making enough to get by
With a union contract, everything is spelled out in black and white, as decided upon between the workers’ negotiating committee and the employer during bargaining, and the rules don’t change until workers renegotiate. For instance, raises are guaranteed, holidays, vacations, hours, etc. can all be defined by the contract.
In addition, discipline and firing isn’t at the whim of the employer for union members. There are certain rules the boss has to go through, a series of steps, to show that they have just cause for discipline or firing you. Throughout this time, a union representative will be working on your behalf to represent you and make sure you get a fair deal and your rights are protected.
Other benefits of union membership include special discounts for UFCW members, everything from cell phones to free legal advice, as well as access to the UFCW Scholarship program.