December 9, 2003 1:20 PM   Subscribe

If a union challenges your previously non-union position and wins, now making your job the only union position in the immediate office, what can you do about it? Can you really be forced to work a union position if that's not how the job was presented to you 4 years ago when you took it?
posted by nramsey to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I had the exact same delightful thing happen to me (costing me two weeks of vacation a year- some helpful union). I called the State Attorney General's Office and they said my recourse was to quit. That's it. Maybe it's different where you are (I'm in Minnesota), but I couldn't find a way not to get the shaft.
posted by COBRA! at 1:26 PM on December 9, 2003

It kind of depends on what your concern is. If it's having to pay union dues, the answer depends on whether you're in a "right to work" state or not. In most states you can be required to join the union and pay dues. In right to work states, however, you can't be compelled to join the union or pay dues.

However, even in a "right to work state," if you're in a bargaining unit, you're still "represented" by the union, and subject to the terms of the agreements between the employer and the union.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:47 PM on December 9, 2003

(re: the foregoing. This is for informational purposes only, and not intended to be legal advice, blah blah blah)
posted by pardonyou? at 1:48 PM on December 9, 2003

I think COBRA! has hit the nail on the head here ... call the AG's office for your state (or Department of Labor/Labor Standards, if your state has one) and ask them. Laws vary widely from state to state.
posted by anastasiav at 1:48 PM on December 9, 2003

Here is more information on your rights, both in right-to-work states and non-right-to-work states, from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. [As legal information must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. This is not meant as an endorsement or verification of the information contained in the above linked pages.]
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:57 PM on December 9, 2003

Laws vary widely from state to state.

Well, yes and no. This is a slightly unique situation, since most labor law is federal. However, Section 14(b) of the federal Taft-Hartley Act provided that individual states could enact "right to work laws." 22 have done so (unfortunately, nramsey, California is not one of them). And even though Taft-Hartley ceded some discretion to the states, the actual "right to work laws" themselves don't significantly vary from each other -- they all simply provide that union membership and dues cannot be compelled.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:53 AM on December 10, 2003

This reads very strangely to this UK reader - why wouldn't you want to join your union?

Mine isn't much use to me most of the time, to be honest, and I had to jump through hoops to join, but I'd feel exposed working without being a union member, whatever industry I worked in. Maybe Old Labour guilt doesn't apply in the US ;)
posted by jack_mo at 7:42 AM on December 10, 2003

This reads very strangely to this UK reader - why wouldn't you want to join your union?

In my case, I was hired as nonunion, with 4 weeks of vacation a year and flexible hours. The union insisted that my position should be under their influence, and after about a year of dickering, my employer caved. So I now have the lower-rate union benefits, with 2 weeks of vacation instead of 4, and am on the clock.

I think organized labor is a good idea in the abstract, particularly if workers have a specific beef that they want to band together to address. But I think it's pretty common for unions to morph into entities that exist just to maintain their own status- in my case it was pretty clear with everyone I talked to that the incremental bargaining leverage gained by the organization was much more important than the situation (and wishes) of one of teh workers they claim to be protecting.
posted by COBRA! at 8:20 AM on December 10, 2003

Response by poster: Jack-mo—I'm not currently in a union bargaining unit. We call ourselves unclassified, unranked, unwashed. We basically get the dregs of what the faculty negotiate in their contract, but we aren't guaranteed anything.

The things I don't like about this situation are legion, but primarily I will go from 15 hours a month vacation to 8. I took this job 4 years ago over another job (that paid more in salary) because of the great benefits. Now I won't have the great benefit and I have a crappy salary. I just don't understand how someone can be compelled to be in union if they don't want to be.

Plus, I do the same job as everyone else in my office, but I'm the only position the union challenged. So everyone else in my 4 person office will continue on with their 4+ week vacation benefits.

on preview, what COBRA said too.
posted by nramsey at 8:32 AM on December 10, 2003

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