UnionMaine

Trust me, I work for the Government

Who the Hell cares? I just don’t care about apathy and I didn’t vote for a democracy.

I have not gotten 500 members to sign up. I was going to quit but then I started thinking that would be one less voice to speak up. In three years I could retire so why don’t I just shut up and coast? Because I owe it to all of the Strong Union members that came before me and to all of the hard working members that will follow. I have gotten a lot of good out of State Service and I hope I have returned some good to the people of Maine. Take this as a warning, that on the “As Maine Goes” forums there is a vocal and active group of posters discussing issues and trying to take you down! I won’t be apathetic, but I recognize the reasons that so many members can’t help, and want the Union to do things for them.

It is becoming obvious that not many Union members join Union activities. Even the activists and some Union officials are saying that almost no one seems to care except when they lose a benefit or a raise is too small. Members want to be heard, they want their Union to be democratic and then they don’t realize that even a phone call could help.

Andy Stern writes, “Workers want their lives to be changed. They want strength and a voice, not some purist, intellectual, historical, mythical democracy.” This does not mean that the members want to be told what to do. They just want to be heard and they want good, strong leadership.

MSEA members want a real democracy, but there are too many of the old rules still there. If there is a real interest in union democracy, why don’t we get rid of some of the picky rules that only control not help democracy? Why do the meeting attendance rules effectively exclude over 90% of union members from running for office? We have involved, long, continuous good standing requirements which disqualify longtime union activists.

There are a lot of good points. Our Union does not try to restrict use of the internet and independent websites. We don’t limit the right of observers to watch ballot counts for contracts. We support non-members in grievances and will do as good a job as humanly possible, member or not.

After a poorly attended chapter meeting or after not getting a better contract I sometimes think that the idea of “union democracy” is a lost cause. I wonder if I should give up trying to copy Paul Revere. (They are coming to take your heath care) Apathy is so wide spread, so deep and members are just giving their votes to Union officials, or for or against legislators just to keep a job and benefits, with no concern for their fellow members. Even worse, so many don’t vote, don’t call, don’t email, don’t care.

Maybe giving up on Union democracy when things look so dark is exactly the wrong thing to do.

State employees, their families and retirees number tens of thousands of strong Maine citizens. Most people are caught up just trying to live, each day, working, trying to live on a retiree pay, keeping a roof over their heads, raising children, making the car payments, the rent or mortgage.

Life takes a lot of maintenance and can be tiring no matter how sweet your spouse or how loving your kids. These are the members that cannot participate in the Union. It looks like apathy, but it is just what we call life. If we have a strong Union democracy, with a core of activists, we can get the information to the tired, or even to the truly apathetic. We can wake up the majority and force them to face up to the critical issues of the moment. That is, democracy is an indispensable means to overcome apathy. Maybe it is time to review our rules and make it easier for more members to participate.

Remember, if you are concerned that too few are making the decisions for too many, an apathetic membership forces activists and Union officials to make decisions, sometimes without enough information.

Our Union has a lot of active, loyal members, and we could have more. I think we need the new blood to help wake up the tired and to help carry the load.

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August 21st, 2007 Posted by narsbars | MSEA, MSEASEIU, SEIU, SEIU 1984, SEIU 1989, TECHNORATI, UNION ACTIVISTS, UNIONMAINE, VSEA | one comment

1 Comment

  1. A thoughtful and provocative piece, Narsbars. The beauty of an organization like MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 is that it’s statewide and truly member driven. Anyone who wants to get involved can and should today. There are many reasons to do so but to me they all boil down to this: Workers need to stand up for each other if we’re going to have any chance of keeping the American Dream alive for our children. That’s a tall order and as a parent, I certainly want to do my part.

    Personally I think it’s exciting to be part of an organization with over 10,000 members. When you think about it, it’s a wonder we can accomplish anything at all given the huge size of our state and the many diverse views and experiences among our members. Yet seemingly against all odds, we can and do accomplish great things — fair treatment at work, quality public services, respect for public workers, a belief that all workers deseve a voice in their wages benefits and working conditions; a belief that everyone should be able to go to the doctor when their sick; and a belief that if you work hard all you life, you should be able to enjoy a decent retirement.

    Thinking big and dreaming big and making those dreams happen all require work, hard work, on many levels. Let’s first recognize the hard work of the MSEA-SEIU members who built this organization into what it is over the past 60-plus years. Many of these members are long dead or retired. They sacrificed for us and our children and grandchildren. We wouldn’t have gotten to this point without their hard work for MSEA.

    Now it’s our turn to do the same for the next generation. No one ever said it was going to be easy. Many folks have done great work and are still doing great work. It’s time for the folks who haven’t yet stepped to the plate to do so.

    Thank you, Narsbars, for providing this forum, for leading by example, and for doing your part to engage more members in The Good Fight. You are an inspiration to others.

    Comment by Anonymous | August 22, 2007

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