Your best investment is joining a union

Posted Jun. 12, 2019 by

I’ve said it a thousand times before, and I’ll say it a thousand times again. There is so much power in workers coming together in unions: to better our workplaces, to better our families and to better society in general.

These days, I see it every day, on television, in newspapers, on social media and right in front of me with the public workers OCSEA represents. All over the news we see teachers leading the charge in collective action. But what is also occurring is that workers in all sectors are getting organized.

From college faculty members and tech company employees to fast food chains and grocery store workers—workers are using the power of a unified voice to shake things up because they’re fed up. They’re seeing the value of a collective voice and a union at the table for increased pay, benefits and retirement. No one else is going to do it for us.

Just reading the news about Nevada State employees organizing for the first time ever (and just won collective bargaining last week!), or Wright State University faculty holding the line on pay cuts, or Stop & Shop grocery employees winning an historic agreement after a strike. These are true inspirations!

Bosses aren’t looking out for us, no matter how many so-called perks they throw our way. Take for example, some of the ridiculous perks in the non-unionized private sector: free snacks, games on the job and concierge services. None of those pay the bills or fight your child’s cold! A union voice on the job negotiates real benefits that matter to everyday workers.

It’s the kind of collective action that is happening right here at OCSEA every single day that is making a real difference in our members’ lives. We recently negotiated a telemedicine agreement for State of Ohio OCSEA members that will cut our office co-pays in half and supported a bill to exempt our members in the Ohio Dept. of Mental Health from having to disclose personal information through Ohio’s open records laws.

Two recent OCSEA local government contract wins negotiated directly by members are the perfect examples of what happens when the union has a seat at the table. In Mount Vernon City, the OCSEA bargaining team negotiated a “Me Too” clause that resulted in an additional pay increase through 2020. And the Huron County Job and Family Services bargaining team not only secured a hefty wage increase, they got a $1,500 contract signing bonus and an increase to their education stipend.

And let’s not forget, OCSEA’s wage and benefit package for the State Ohio contract put it at one of the top contracts in the country last year, and included a wage increase of 8.5 percent over the contract’s life, an over 40 percent increase in shift differential, maintenance of the 15/85 health care split and a first-time vacation cash-out bonus starting this year. And, just this week, we announced the union-negotiated $500 increase to $4,000 per year for the Union Education Trust Career Improvement Program (CIP).

I was perusing social media the other day and came across a meme that hit home: “The best investment I ever made was paying my union dues.” The word “investment” rang true. How lucky are we to be able to invest in an “insurance” policy that makes sure we have a voice on the job? It’s so powerful to join together with our co-workers, no matter how different we are, to have a say about health care, wages, leave and safety at work. And what a privilege it is to know we have an army of members who have each other’s back. I call myself privileged to be in your company.

How will you invest in your union in 2019 and beyond? How will you get involved and join us? As they say, there’s no UNION without “U” and “I.” It’s going to take an investment by all of us to keep these collective actions going. By raising our voice, we will have a real seat at table!