December 2005

Going from "the union"
to "my union"

Over the years, many union members have switched from speaking about "their union" to the more negative and distant "the union." This simple change in how many of us refer to our union signifies an important shift in how unions are perceived -- both by our members and by the general public.

From my discussions with members who work in every industry represented by Local 853, I have learned that most of you have confidence in your union. You know that if you have a problem, you can reach your business agent or me, and get an answer to your question or get action on your issue.

I believe our members know that their contracts are among the nation's best in every industry and sector where they work, and that their health benefits and pension plans are stable and work for them and their families.

Take ownership of your union

I want the members of Local 853 to feel they are part of their own organization. I want the members to take pride in Local 853's accomplishments. I want our members to feel they have a say in what happens to them on their jobs, and a say in how their union operates. Most importantly, I want our membership to take ownership of their union.

This can only happen if our members, YOU, start to make a few small changes. Talk to your fellow members about "their," "our," or "my" union. Be quick to point out some of the things you have that your non-union competitor doesn't have. These include a contract and a grievance procedure, overtime pay, sick leave, vacations, health care benefits worth as much as $6 per hour and a free or inexpensive prescription drug plan.

I hope you'll appreciate and talk about the fact that when you retire you will have a monthly pension for the rest of your life, and perhaps the rest of your spouse's life. Appreciate and talk about the fact that you probably also have the benefit of a 401(k) plan to supplement your pension.

Most importantly, talk to your fellow members and to workers who need a union, about supporting your union and organizing to gain the advantages your union provides.

Recognizing the limits

On the other hand, your union cannot accomplish every goal, solve every problem, or overturn every disciplinary action or discharge.

As a union member, you can help protect your job by making sure your employer stays competitive against non-union companies. As a union member, you are responsible for providing your employer with a good day's work for a good day's pay.

Understand how important it is to take responsibility for your actions. Police yourself and try to help your fellow union members act responsibly. Many of the bad rules and restrictive language in our contracts are instituted as a result of a few people abusing a good thing.

Let one of your New Year's resolutions be to make "the" union, "my" union. Give back to your union by helping your shop steward, by defending your union against derogatory attacks, by attending union meetings and participating in union functions and by showing pride that you belong to the one organization in this country that exists solely for you.

I wish you and yours happy, healthy, and safe holidays. Remember, the reason you are getting paid while you are off on these holidays is because of YOUR UNION!

Rome A. Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer

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