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Learn the Truth about Unions

A local teachers union provides their members with talking points to empower each of them to become union organizers

Guest Post's picture
by Guest Post on
Mar 28, 2018

The Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association's (BSCTA)Political Action Committee has provided some talking points that you can use when you are talking to your co-workers, friends and family about the importance of sticking with our union. In these talking points, they have compiled some points that you can bring up for many of the most common reasons that people often bring up for leaving a union.

In Workplaces without a Union

  •     There is no freedom of speech: If you speak out if turn you can be punished and even terminated.
  •     There is no freedom of the press: If you issue your own publication, such as a flyer, you can be punished.
  •  You are guilty until proved innocent: An employer can terminate you for any reason or no reason at all, as long as you cannot demonstrate that such termination was due to a violation of your statutory rights e.g., against unlawful discrimination.

In the absence of either special litigation or organization in the workplace, so-called property rights trump your personal civil liberties. The nonexistence of workplace rights proves that unions are just as relevant as they ever were. Especially since there is no indication that Congress or most state legislatures will be taking steps through self-organization to guarantee that their rights and voices are respected.

"Why Should I Join the Union"

  •     I can't tell you why you should join the union but I can tell you why I joined, then share your story.
  •     Our union is only as strong as its members.  It goes far beyond membership. We need engagement, ideas, and spirit from as many of us as possible.
  •     Describe the vision with no union, then ask is that what you want?
  •     Having a union changes the basic power relationship at work.  With a union, our employer cannot make changes in our working conditions unless they are negotiated with us.  Any benefits or working conditions covered by our contract are protected.  Without a union, employers have almost all the rights.  They can change our pay and working conditions at any time as long as they do not violate certain laws.  Any benefits you receive are at the discretion of our employer.

"I Can't Afford to Join. I've Got a Family to Support"

  •     If every worker felt as you do, we would have no union at all to bargain for us or to represent us in grievances.  
  •     You can't afford not to belong.  Compare the cost with your returns on this investment.  Your return each year is far greater than the annual dues.
  •     You say you have a family to support.  You owe it to your family, above all, to be a member of a union that ensures job security, wage increases, and fringe benefits.  Your family benefits directly from all of these.
  •     We could get so much more if we didn't have nonmembers.  Aren't you interested in further gains? These can be won only if enough of us want them and are willing to work to get them.

"I Don't Believe in Unions"

  •       Point out what unions have done historically.  Describe how things were in American industry before unions.  Workers were fired at the whim of management or arbitrability at the age of 40.  Describe the extremely low wages, long hours, no fringe benefits, no unemployment compensation, no social security, no workers' compensation.  Stress not only the contract gains but also the efforts of labor to enact better laws and create better communities.
  •     Unions are just associations of people banded together for mutual protection and benefit.  Everyone - farmers, merchants, bankers, lawyers, utility companies - everyone joins together today to increase their effectiveness.  Why not workers?
  •     Every CEO millionaire in America negotiates a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of their employment before they begin working.  Why shouldn't we have a contract?
  •     Try to find out the specific reason behind this objection, and then try to correct the false impression the employee has.

"I Don't Need a Union, Our Employer is Fair. What Has the Union Done For Us That We Wouldn't Have Done On Our Own?"

  •     This is a good place to work now, and the union played a big part in making this so.  But of course, this is no reason why we shouldn't try to make it an even better place to work.  Your job has been made more pleasant and secure because of the union representation afforded to you on the job.  Your supervisor has to treat you fairly since the contract requires that he or she do so. The employer is fair because the union is holding them accountable.
  •     Have them consider the following:
    •         What happens if school administration, the board or Superintendent change?
    •         How does it work now?  How would it work with no union?
  •     Rely on history, and point out specific language in the contract.  You might want to call in a veteran worker to give a firsthand account.  Discuss the history of bargaining in the specific bargaining unit.
  •     Without a union, the employer will treat you well so as long as this is the profitable or convenient thing for them to do.  The union provides protection from arbitrary and unfair treatment by the employer.
  •     With no union or a union contract, employers have the ability to change policies and workplace rules with no notice.  There is no recourse without a legally binding contract. If you don't like the changes, what will you do to fix them without a union?
  •     Point out that very frequent personality clashes arise between employers and supervisors.  Ask: "What would you do if this should happen to you? What would you be able to do to help yourself if the employer fired or demoted or otherwise mistreated you?"

"The Union Doesn't Do Anything For Us. I Don't Like the People Running Things in the Union."

  •     Insist on specifics.
  •     You are the union.  What have you done recently to strengthen it?
  •     Your local officers and reps. work for this employer just as you and I do.  They need lots of training, experience, and help you to do the job well.  Being a union member gives you the right and the opportunity to help in running this union better.  If you want to see the change you have to get involved. Are you willing to get involved? Point out that the members have an obligation to replace those officers and stewards who continue to do their job poorly.  
  •     You are the union.  You can get involved and run for office to help change the things you don't like.
  •     Enumerate the contract benefits - choice of hours, vacations, sick benefits.  Remind them that these didn't come automatically.
  •     Discuss the need to use the grievance procedure properly.  Frequently some of the complaints we have about grievances occur because the proper procedure was not followed.  Many grievances are settled satisfactorily. But with 100 percent membership, we could do an even better job of investigating and processing grievances.

"I Can Handle My Own Affairs. I Can Take Care of Myself. I Don't Need to Stay in this Job Forever."

  •     This may be true, but the chances are that you might need help somewhere along the way.  What about your colleagues? They need your help. Do you think an individual could accomplish the same results as the collective voice and power of the union?
  •     Having a union changes the basic power relationship at work.  Employees come together to collectively advocate for fair workplace rules, job security and better benefits.  With a union, employees are no longer subject to the discretion of the employer.
  •     Even if you are leaving the job, don't you want to make it better for the people coming in after you?

"I Don't Want Anything to do With Unions. They're All Corrupt."

  •     A union is a democratic organization made up of employees.  Every local operates autonomously. We have checks and balances in our constitution and by-laws to assure democratic procedures and membership control of the union.
  •     In general, a lack of financial control and regulation in any organization makes corruption possible.  Corruption can only happen when there is a lack of genuine democracy and/or poor systems of checks and balances.  We strive to maintain democracy and membership control through our constitution and by-laws. Our union is not corrupt.

"I Don't Know Enough About NYSUT or the Labor Movement"

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