Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Dues Abuse: “The way the union is run my co-workers feel powerless”

Labor Notes is a great resource for anyone concerned with where the labor movement is headed. Earlier this year they had a great piece on bloated salaries for union officials. Now they’ve analyzed the dues structure of 15 major unions in 2004, and — to no one’s surprise — the cash is rolling in! The return on this windfall, though, remains in doubt.

As you might expect, Labor Notes found that the highest dues were paid by the Operating Engineers members, who are highly skilled, “[b]ut even unions with a reputation for organizing low-wage workers, most notably the Service Employees (SEIU) and UNITE HERE (which represents hotel and restaurant workers), have higher than average dues.”

Interestingly, the report found:

Adjusted for inflation, the biggest increase among major unions was in the Teamsters, where dues went up by almost 20 percent. But the Teamsters were not alone raising dues significantly in recent years. AFSCME, SEIU, CWA, UFCW, and the IUOE all posted double-digit dues increases between 2000 and 2004.

Where’d the money go? Toward fixing the problems created by union bosses in the first place:

For example the Teamsters dues hike came in response to a budget crisis inside the union, while the UFCW belatedly raised dues following the 2003-2004 Southern California grocery strike.

But the worst part is how members are left feeling. Labor Notes finds:

“Dues have been going up pretty steadily over the last couple of years,” remarked Russ Blunden, a Meijer’s grocery stocker and member of UFCW Local 951 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. “People are upset…The way the union is run my co-workers feel powerless. They just throw their hands up and say, ‘Why bother?’”

Categories: SEIUUFCW