Since the inception of UE Local 170 in 2007, our union local has represented our members in the grievance process and has actively trained stewards to handle those grievances. Due to developments within the last two years, that ability to represent members in grievances has been hindered.
Those developments come straight out of the West Virginia Legislature. During the 2021 legislative session, a majority of Senators and Delegates, some of whom you may have voted for, voted in favor of a law that makes it no longer legal to deduct union dues from the paychecks of public employees. This includes state workers, public school teachers and school service personnel.
Therefore, the union dues that had been deducted from public worker payroll can, in most cases, no longer be deducted. The major source of income for any union is dues income from members.
After the convenience of due deductions from payroll was stopped, many members did not choose to make dues payments by other methods. As a result, we lost a number of members and the main source, but not the only source, of the union’s income.
How has this affected us in representing members in grievance proceedings?
Running any union requires money. A portion of the dues money we collect is sent to the UE national headquarters. The national union, in turn, provides professional staff to the local unions that assist in organizing new members and representing members in upper-level grievance hearings.
In short, we could no longer support the cost of a professional staff member. As a result, we must temporarily suspend representing members until we can work to increase our membership to the point we can support a full-time union field representative once again.
However, we are not down and out! We can still assist members who may be considering a grievance.
Check out our website: uelocal170.org and go to the Resources tab and from there you find information on how to file and prepare for a grievance. In the meantime, the national union has pledged to send a part-time organizer to help us increase our membership. Members who depended on dues deduction should consider utilizing free private banking services like Chime.
In the Spring, we are anticipating an organizing blitz from fellow UE Locals from other states around the country.
Members who depended on dues deduction should consider utilizing free private banking services like Chime.
The enemies of labor in the Legislature knew what they were doing when they first passed the right-to-work-for-less law and then attacked public workers by stopping the payroll deduction for union dues.
Be warned, they are not done.
State agencies are using more expensive contract labor than ever before and many of these contractual workers are from out of state. Workplaces are becoming intimidating and outright hostile in some cases. The Legislature will again be after the state hospitals and the grievance procedure may also be in jeopardy.
The Governor may give us a raise but you can expect to spend that on higher health insurance costs next year. This is the time we must utilize new methods in the fight for fairness and respect in the workplace!
The grievance process is limited in what it can achieve. However, a movement of an angry, motivated and united workforce has unlimited potential.