A union is an organization of workers who are employed by the same employer and who use their collective power to:
Individual workers, on their own, just can’t match the power of the employer, because the employer has the ability to fire workers. Without a union, the employer can cut pay, eliminate benefits, change working conditions, or fire employees for no reason.
For more than two hundred years, workers have learned that they can match the strength of their employer if they stand together as a group. One common misunderstanding - one that is often encouraged and reinforced by employers - is that a union is an outside entity, a third party that intervenes between management and workers. It’s simply not true.
You and your co-workers are the union. Together you set your goals, choose your representatives, and negotiate with the employer. The union consists of the workers, standing together and speaking with one voice.
So when the employer attacks the union, the employer is really attacking you and your co-workers and your right to stand together and use your collective power to make your voice heard. By joining and participating in a union, you are taking part in a movement that has a long history. As a union member, you benefit not only from the gains won by your union in your workplace, but by all unions in all workplaces, going back decades, even centuries.
Many of the workplace standards we now take for granted were initiated, fought for, and won by unions. The eight-hour work day, the five-day work week, sick pay, vacation pay, maternity and paternity leave, retirement benefits, health care coverage - none of these were willingly offered by benevolent employers eager to improve the lives of their workers.These benefits were demanded and won by workers, by union members who fought, sacrificed, and even died in the struggle for workers rights.The IAM have been responsible for many of the most significant gains that workers have made since May 5,1888.
By standing together with your fellow workers, you are honoring the efforts and sacrifices of previous generations of workers and helping to ensure better pay and working conditions for future generations. The strength of the IAM Union comes from what we put into it. Employers continue to require more from healthcare workers. To be successful in winning favorable conditions for ourselves and our patients, healthcare workers have to be strong and united.
Standing together means supporting our co-workers on and off the job. We are all in this together. Our union functions through meetings, committees, and involving members in making decisions that affect them. We encourage our members to get involved. Together we are building the model union.
The IAM Union is a member-driven movement for democracy, quality patient care, and a stronger voice in the workplace,it is committed to building a model union by dedicating itself to the following principles.
Democracy: Union members elect union officers, executive board members, stewards, and rank-and-file bargaining team members; negotiate and ratify their contracts; and vote on changes to the union’s Constitution and Bylaws.
Workplace Organization: The union is strongest when workers elect a steward from every department and every shift and hold regular steward council meetings.
Training and Development: The IAM conducts regular training sessions for stewards to develop their representation skills.
Patient Advocacy: The IAM is committed to its watchdog role in the workplace. As the last line of defense for our patients, we must ensure that they receive the care they need and deserve.
New Organizing: Not only does organizing the unorganized bring new opportunities to more workers, but raising the wages and benefits of your employer’s competitors helps you win higher economic standards from your employer.
Political Action: Healthcare is financed and regulated by elected government officials. Healthcare and insurance corporations are heavily involved in the political process, influencing decisions that impact our industry. We need to be involved, too. We need to ensure that the voice of healthcare workers is part of the discussion.
Research: By investigating the standards and practices of employers, we equip ourselves with valuable information in negotiating fair, equitable contracts for workers.
Communication: A vital element of our work is getting the word out to our members, the public, and the media.
A union contract, sometimes referred to as a collective bargaining agreement, is the legal, binding agreement negotiated between the union — you and your co-workers — and the employer. It sets forth the rates of pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
The contract represents what the union, through its collective strength, has forced the employer to agree to. Although management often implies that it would provide good wages and benefits without pressure from a union, history shows that employers rarely offer higher pay, better benefits, or improved working conditions beyond the bare minimum unless compelled to do so. The union is the institution that forces an employer to go beyond the bare minimum, and the union contract incorporates those improvements into a legally enforceable document.
A union contract is unlike other types of contracts, like those used to purchase a car or a house. If those kinds of contracts are violated, you have to go to court and then convince a judge to enforce them. By contrast, you and your co-workers are responsible for enforcing the union contract.
Employers, in the pursuit of greater profits, often try to get around the contract. It is the union’s job to see that they don’t. If you and your co-workers do not vigilantly enforce the contract, then the employer has no reason to abide by it.
Union members enforce the contract through a variety of means: petitions, meetings, collective action, and through the grievance procedure. Effective contract enforcement requires union members to be well-informed, unified in purpose, and well-organized. To accomplish this, members in each department or unit of the workplace elect a well-respected co-worker as a shop steward. The workplace’s democratically elected shop stewards meet monthly to organize the workers collective power.
Through meetings and through actions democratically determined by the membership, stewards and rank-and-file members must work hand-in-hand to ensure that the contract is enforced and that the employer is held accountable to the contract. Collectively, the members assess problems and decide how they should be addressed, whether through a grievance procedure or some other means.
Member participation is vital. These are important decisions that require unity among the membership. In workplaces where members are active, the union is strong; where participation is low, the union is weak. It is only when workers actively participate in building the union that we have the power to force the employer to provide quality patient care, safe working conditions, and good pay and benefits.
The power of the union comes from uniting all workers hired by the employer. The union must be truly democratic with room for everyone, including those with different ideas. The union should be the safest place in our society to disagree, a place where all workers and all ideas are welcome.
We do not choose who belongs to our union; employers choose who belongs to the union by whom they choose to hire. Collectively we must work with everyone the employers hire, including new hires and probationary employees, to create the unity and strength we need to win goals that we all support.
Workers make up a majority of the population, but employers and their administrators and managers, who make up just a small part of the population, exercise tremendous influence over the rest of us. To remain powerful, and to undermine the enormous power that workers have when they are united, employers continually attempt to divide workers — by job classification, education and training, and even by age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and legal status. Employers try to use our differences to divide and weaken our union.
The IAM fights discrimination in three ways. First, we support all movements that fight against racism, bigotry, and prejudice of any kind. Second, our contracts include strong language that prohibits the employer from discriminating based on the basis of race, creed, sexual orientation, age, gender, gender identification, and union activity. Third, we have a simple standard: all union members have the absolute right to be judged based on their own actions and behavior, regardless of what they look like, where they come from, what language they speak, who they love, or what religion they practice, if any. We believe that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that what unites us is good and what divides us is bad.
Copyright © Int'l Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers - (IAM)
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