UnionMaine

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Is It Freedom When You Get to Choose Your Pay Cut ?

Will this post generate comments? You be the judge.

Step right up and pick Your Pay Cut! Health care cuts! Pay cuts! Lost holidays!, But wait, there’s more! If you do nothing in the next ten minutes a free additional pay cut will be added to your paycheck!

Is this what Union negotiations have come to? It seems that member apathy has gotten so bad that the only choice left is to pick your pay cut. Without support from the Union membership, calls to legislators, letters to the editor, and discussions with our neighbors we will lose decades of progress and there will be no good choices left.

Can we fix what is wrong? Can we head off the attacks on employees’ pay and benefits? NO!……… Yes!…..You choose.
We can do more together than we can do alone. We, as members, have lost our sense of involvement. The idea that we pay our dues and the “union should do it for us” has taken hold while members forget that the real strength of Unions is numbers and solidarity.

If we take a beating, we the union members, will have allowed the beating to happen
through apathy and our lack of interest about anyone else’s job or interests.

My union membership began in 1975 at my first industrial job. I joined the IBEW in Rhode Island and at that time the Union steward was only interested in keeping his job and had no real interest in members. This colored my opinion of Unions and when I was going to lose my job the steward said “too bad”.

Then I became employed by a company in Boston running telephone wire and installing phone systems. I worked for a small company, but a Union company. They insisted on safe working conditions, overtime pay and fair treatment. I paid my dues but did nothing and I thought that was enough. In the late 80’s I lost that job due to the economy and was lucky to find State employment two years later. I passed my probation and went looking for my Union steward in order to at least be informed. I had no intent to become active.

I was going to pay my dues and shut up. There was no steward and I said well…. someone has do it. I thought I could fill in for a few months until a real steward showed up. Seventeen years later I am still a steward, I have negotiated contracts, saved employees’ jobs, and tried to comfort some who were fired for cause. I have never regretted trying to make a difference. I have had success, I have failed. I have never looked back.

It has not been easy, I am not a political animal. Even in this Union I love, I learned quickly that to speak out or question union staff and elected officials took guts and could make you unpopular. To hell with it. In Maine you could be heard then and you can be heard now, if you speak up. Union staff and Management staff share one trait.

They only listen if you speak.

You can’t blame anyone for the results of your silence. It is way past time to stop sitting back and doing nothing. It is time to come to a meeting, and be willing to put in the effort and unpaid hours it takes to become part of their Union and build the strength it takes to protect your jobs and your pride. It takes commitment and time off from work using up vacation hours or unpaid time. Your stewards don’t get paid but they put their own jobs on the line and put their own fears of management retaliation aside to fight for you.

I did this through the 90’s and now the 2000’s, trying to build a sense of purpose and solidarity at work sites. I thought that handling grievances and helping my co-workers was right and I still think it is right. The problem is that your stewards and your staff can’t do it alone. I have faced retaliation. Many of your stewards have lost promotions or been given the SHI% jobs. Stewards are subtly and even openly threatened with pay cuts and worse but they keep doing their jobs for you anyway because “someone has to do it”.

I can only imagine how bad it would get with no Union and no membership involvement. The time is now. You are needed. You are at risk of pay cuts, lay offs, health care cuts.

I can do my part to try to stop these things but I don’t wear an S on my chest. Please step forward and talk to your friends. Organize your work sites. You don’t have to fight with management, but you vote and pay taxes. You are more than ten thousand strong and you can contact your legislators and tell them not to balance the budget on your back.

What do you think? Is our membership apathetic? Leave a comment and show we are not apathetic. Leave the comments blank and prove those who say the time for Unions is past are right.
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March 25th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | one comment

1 Comment

  1. I think I made my point. Damn it, I hate being right on this one.

    Comment by Thomas Maher | March 28, 2009

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