How many of you guys are in a union where you work? We have been contacted by a union that represents library workers throughout our state. I know unions aren't perfect, but it appears to be the only way for us to stand up to the County Council. We were forced to take furlough days this year, and the feeling is that it will be worse next year. Unfortunately, our director (and the administration) will not look out for us - he's too concerned about sucking up to the County Council because he's still holding out hope to get a new library. Like I said, unionizing might be our only option.

Thanks, Gents!

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I go back and forth on them.

On the one hand, I like collective bargaining, and sticking up for yourselves - especially in the face of otherwise overwhelming odds, and bad conditions.

On the other hand - I see them as hurting many of our manufacturing options, driving up costs, and stagnating quality. The few print jobs that I have had to reject and send back have always been union shops...whose prices were higher, and didn't do them right. But we had to use them since they were political materials. I have never had a union print shop give me a competitive bid, or show me print samples that made me think they justified their markup.

They do have their role (unions). But it's a fine balance, and the unions themselves need to be better about policing their members to ensure quality. I'm sure many unions do this (teachers, for instance) - but the ones I've had closest contact with (theater tech/carpentry and printing) have not convinced me that they make sense across the board.
Liam, that is a near perfect statement regarding the tension surrounding labor unions. I would only add how they get involved in politics, which could be a pro or a con depending on your party.
The pros and cons of unions seem to differ on a case by case basis. Some are useless parasites, some actively fight for fairer wages and benefits. All of them take a bite of your paycheck without asking first, so be careful when choosing a union (if choosing a union).

I'm kind of surprised that a public entity like a library wouldn't already be part of a union.
I know, Jamie. Another option is perhaps trying to band together with the other county employees that are/were affected by the budget crunch (the more, the better) - everyone EXCEPT the Board of Education, the teachers, and police and fire. I can see the teachers and police and fire, but there are people that work out at the BOE that do NOTHING and make big money doing it. Oh, and of course none of the County Council members were affected either - from my understanding, it's a part-time position and most of the members have other income.

I think one of the sticking points is going to be the issue of part-time employees - i.e. whether or not they'll be covered by the union, or whether most of those positions would turn into full-time. Those are things that need to be addressed. A good friend of mine (she's the director in a neighboring county that has also been targeted by this union) pointed out that libraries can't exist without part-timers - usually pages and people in circulation.

To give them the benefit of the doubt, this union does seem on the up and up. If we do decide to unionize, we will have contracts - that way entities like the County Council can't do anything that violates it. For example, one of the options this past year was a 'temporary pay reduction' (i.e. cutting our already low salaries). However, they wouldn't be allowed to do that because our salaries will be spelled out in our contracts. Right now we're powerless.

As far as dues go, they are pretty high. However, as the union person I talked to pointed out - 'what you get back far exceeds what you pay in.' And that was echoed by a library worker that's in this particular union. So, I figure that's pretty good.
"I think one of the sticking points is going to be the issue of part-time employees - i.e. whether or not they'll be covered by the union..."

My guess is that most part-time employees wouldn't want to be covered by the union. I remember working as a grocery clerk at Safeway when I was in college. I had to pay dues to the union, even though I was making minimum wage with zero benefits. What's the point of that? I swear, the only thing grocery clerks got fired for around there was refusing to pay their union dues!
Yeah, being part-time sucks! If you're not reaping any benefits, you shouldn't have to pay the dues. Wouldn't you think there would be a sliding scale? There's got to be something like that.

Thanks for the valuable input, Jamie!
The biggest problem I have with unions is in order to get fair wages for employees far to often they institute policies like your 35 cent/year pay increase that kills incentive to perform with merit. If you know you will get a raise regardless why should an employee perform exceptionally? Unions need to structure their contracts more to help the employer by providing incentives for improved employee performance, enabling employees to get better paying jobs.

Also, I wonder whether seniority of responsibility should be directly tied to how long you have worked for a company rather than on the merit of your performance with that company.
Part timers at my place only have to pay into the union if they are regular part time. Meaning here that they work a normal amount of shifts and show up regularly. We have a couple part timers that are trained for the job but only work now and then if their full time job and an open shift match. Those employees are not required to pay into the union.

I never grew up a union guy but living in Detroit lead to getting a job with one. My take on the situation is that unions are only needed if you have:

A) bad management
B) you are lazy, or
C) you have an on the job alcohol of drug problem.

Don't expect a quick resolve if you decide to go union. There will be anti union meetings from your employer then contract negotiations to go through, our last negotiation went two years past the end of our last contract.

Wishes for the best either way.
The only fear I would have is that the union might be corrupt, even Mafia owned. Northeastern and California unions are infamous for this. Rudolph Giuliani made his prosecutorial bones fighting for clean unions and then horse traded with the dirtiest for votes in his presidential run. The oldest and most famous unions have been looted by corruption and underworld control; pension funds are in horrible shape from misuse and graft.
I hear Service Employees something something is the most recent honest union; it's theirs to screw up these days. I also hear there might be unions coming on a European model which resemble political PAC's in some ways and don't necessarily have "shops"; anyone can join. Sounds a little like moveon.org to me.
SEIU (Service Employees International Union) is probably the most agressive union for recruitment and has a reputation for being very hardnosed when negociating.
Thanks, Nathan. I'll look into that one too.
Thanks, Greg. I'll look into it.

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