There are serious problems and inequities with how our Union Dues are assessed currently as per our National Constitution. Previous efforts to address these issues through constitutional amendments have failed.
These failures were most likely caused by a lack of preparation. Coming up with resolutions that will pass the constitution committee and the debate on the floor of the convention requires much discussion and a national consensus prior to the 3 – day preconvention regional conferences.
So let us begin the discussion now. Let us try to get input from all levels of our Union. Let us walk into our regional conferences armed with a resolution that has been debated, improved and agreed upon nationally that will lead to constitutional amendments addressing the many problems that currently exist.
Problems, what problems?
Here are a couple of the problems that currently exist:
- Members (other than temporary workers) lose their member in good standing status (MIGS) after becoming more than 3 months in arrears.
- Temporary workers are assessed a full months dues if they work as little as one shift during that month.
Let us address the loss of MIGS status first.
Members losing their MIGS status after 3 months can result in being barred from participating in elections, strike votes or contract ratification votes. They can even be denied CUPW life insurance coverage.
When members go on a leave without pay (LWOP) of a duration greater than three months they have three options to maintain their MIGS status. They can:
- Arrange to pay their dues directly through their local;
- If paying the dues causes financial difficulties, they can apply to have their dues waived by their local and if approved by our national office they will be waived;
- They can do nothing and pay back the dues arrears (double deductions each month for a duration equaling the absence) on their return to work and ask to have their MIGS status restored after the arrears have been paid.
When dues are waived for a LWOP they are forgiven in perpetuity. Our Union never gets repaid. While some members in certain circumstances are fine with this, there is currently no way for a member who cannot afford to pay their dues directly to retain their MIGS status and pay back the arrears on their return to work.
Our members can find themselves on a LWOP due to a serious illness or injury and not even be able to take care of either of the first two options and lose their MIGS status. If tragedy strikes these members and they lose a spouse, child or pass away themselves, they can be denied CUPW life insurance coverage.
Why should members who find themselves on LWOP’s due to injury, illness, maternity/parental leave have to choose between coming up with money that they may not have or denying our Union their dues to avoid losing their MIGS status?
Is the current Dues regime fair for temporary workers?
Currently temporary workers are assessed dues for each month in which they work. If they do not work a shift in a month they owe no dues. However if they work as little as one shift in a month they owe a full month’s dues. This can result in situations where a member may turn down a shift instead of having a huge portion of their pay going to dues.
It is easily understood why this has always been an issue with temporary workers and the situation has been made much worse by new starting wage.
What can we do?
We have to come up with a well reasoned and workable resolution to amend our National Constitution to address the problems while remaining revenue neutral. We have to get all regions on board. We have to do it now.
A few methods proposed but never making it to the convention floor involved:
- Dues based on a percentage of income.
- A threshold of income in a month before dues were assessed.
It is my personal view that the percentage of income method best addresses all the inequities and MIGS issues we now face.
What do you think?