We talk to a lot of union members. A member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) recently shared his story. Given the somewhat tense and ongoing negotiations between the union and the Stop and Shop grocery chain, his story is timely.
In his words*, Tom D. says:
I started working at Stop and Shop Supermarket in August of 2004. My pay rate began at Connecticut minimum wage, 7.10, as the United Commercial Food Workers contract with Stop and Shop supermarket stipulates. The contract also stipulates that I may not work less than 15 hours per week and no more than 30 hours per week. In my first paycheck I was dismayed to see a deduction of 12.50 and 7.00 for initiation and weekly dues respectively. Only making 7.10 an hour, with 1.50 extra an hour on Sundays, these were very large deductions. I needed the job however, and was unable to get a job in the competing BigY Supermarket, which is not unionized for cashiers. After paying off a $60 initiation fee, the weekly fees continued.
The hours on Sunday which I worked with the 1.50 per hour bonus did not pay for the weekly fees, as I only worked 5 hour shifts. The BigY started their cashiers at 8.25 and payed them time and a half on Sundays. While they were not guaranteed hours, they usually receive a comparable amount. They also had more flexibility. I quit Stop and Shop in May of that year, because I picked up a second non-union job, and they would not allow me to work less than 15 hours a week. My good friend who works at BigY still works 2 days a week, gets paid very well, and holds a second job. If anything, the union robbed me of a job as I was unable to keep the Stop and Shop job …
Unions did not help me get a job, they in fact decreased the amount of money I brought home, and caused me to lose a job.
* edited for length