The Best Investment: Union Dues

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Investments and union dues are concepts that are not often paired together. But from an economic standpoint, union dues are one of the best investments that anyone can make. If you put savings in the bank you will get a return in the 5-6% range. Certificates of Deposit return slightly more, but your money is tied up and is not readily available. The rate of return on Real Estate investments has averaged nearly 20%. History has shown that investments in the stock market have returned an average of 11-12% per year since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It is axiomatic, the greater the risk – the greater the reward. In order to get the relatively high rates of return on real estate or stocks yon need to put in personal time and effort. When you invest, you assume the risk that the bottom will fall out of the real estate market in your area or there will be a major “correction” in the stock market that can send prices tumbling 20-30%, or more. Union dues require no risk, no time and little effort from the union member.

According to statistics prepared by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Earnings (January 1999), the average union wage earner in the United States will earn 32% more salary than their non-union counterparts. Benefits for union members including health care, disability benefits and retirement are all superior to what the average non-union worker receives.

The advantages received from paying dues go far beyond wages and benefits. Dues can be looked at as insurance – job insurance. Just as homeowner’s or auto insurance won’t stop an accident, they do provide a measure of security if an accident should happen. By paying dues you are not guaranteed future employment. An insurance policy always has some exclusion. You will not be reimbursed in all circumstances. Paying union dues does not mean that you can never be terminated. It does mean that you can only be terminated for “just cause” or some other legitimate business reason. If you are unjustly terminated, the union will right to save your job – at no cost to you. Dues are also used to pay the cost of negotiating and then enforcing the contract that you work -under.

It is the collective efforts of many and the relatively small contributions that each member pays in the form of dues that allows for all of these advantages. Many employees have worked their whole career under the umbrella of a union contract. Some employees look at dues as a costly inconvenience. They believe everything they have was given to them by their employer or earned throughout their own efforts. For them, union dues are just another deduction on their paycheck. The most dedicated union members are often those who are new to the union. They have worked for non-union employers for low wages, have been fearful when they stood up for their rights and have kept quiet when less senior or less qualified co-workers received promotions. These workers know that dues are not an expense, dues are an investment.

When you join a Union Local you have more then the staff at the Local standing behind you; you leave the entire Local fighting, for your cause. The resources of the International Offices are available to your local’s staff and officers. Wherever you go you are part of a Brotherhood.

By Mike McElfresh