Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ten things to consider when choosing a union:

1. Platform - The union should have a clear plan on how it intends to improve the lot of all the rank-and-file employees. What benefits/programs/initiatives will it advocate? Are such benefits/programs/initiatives indeed feasible, or are they just intended to win votes or to sway opinion in favor of the union? What are its concrete plans that will redound to the benefit of the members?

2. Transparency - The union should not hide the nature or details of its activities to the rank-and-file employees it represents, whether they be members or not. As the sole and accredited collective negotiating agent of the rank-and-file employees, all of us, whether we be members of the union or not, have a personal stake on how the union performs, on how it utilizes its financial and other resources, on how it negotiates or deals with management. Keeping us in the dark will only lead to speculation on what really happens behind closed doors.

3. Integrity - The union should have character. It should be trusted to do the right thing for the majority, and not serve the interests of a few. Its officers and members should not use the union for personal gain, for advancement of personal interests, for promoting themselves, or for receiving or giving favors to anyone. A union is more than the sum of all the individual members of the negotiating unit. It represents the greatest hope of the rank-and-file in protecting its interests and securing the best benefits and conditions of work possible within the framework of public sector unionism.

4. Sincerity - When the union speaks to you, do you really believe...do you really feel that it indeed has your best interests at heart? Do the members seem genuinely concerned over your situation as an employee, regardless of your rank, status, or standing within the community of rank-and-file employees? Are its officers and members sincere in their desire to help you? Or are they just approaching you just to get your vote, pretending to be your friend but after they get what they want from you, to drop you like yesterday's trash?

5. Truthfulness - A union should stand for truth. It should not sugarcoat or fabricate the truth if only to create a favorable opinion of itself among the employees. Nor it should advance itself at the expense of the truth, by hiding its failures and indiscretions. Nor should it rise up by capitalizing on the weaknesses of another, or by spreading lies and half-truths just to meet its objectives.

6. Justice - The union should give everyone their due. It should not favor one employee over the other simply because one is a member and the other is not, if the non-member is more deserving. It should ensure that wrongdoings be punished, and should not go out of its way to exculpate employees when said employees are guilty of wrong. In all its dealings with the employees or with management, it should take into heart the concept of equity and fair play.

7. Reliability - The union should be relied upon to look after the interests of the employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for the three years that it serves as our collective negotiating agent. In times of crises it should always be there to ensure that we get the protection and representation we expect from them. There should never be an instance that the union is needed yet it is nowhere to be seen.

8. Leadership - The union should inspire and bring out the best from the employees. It should lead by example, its officers should be beyond reproach, without a shred of doubt as to their intentions. It should not try to buy the loyalty of the employees with promises of additional benefits or bonuses, delivered or not. It should earn the loyalty and respect of the employees by always doing the right thing, regardless of whether it favors the employees or not. It is not always easy to do the right thing. The union should be willing to make that hard choice if the situation calls for it.

9. Genuineness - The union should be genuinely concerned with the plight of the employees. It should not pretend to be pro-employee, but actually be pro-management when away from prying eyes. It should genuinely look after the interests of the members, and not compromise such interests by making anti-labor concessions with management on the premise of "I scratch your back, and you scratch mine".

10. Morality - A union should have strong moral fiber. It should not be vulnerable to temptation, it should not be blinded by financial inducements or promises of favors. It should not encourage immorality in all its iterations, nor tolerate such from within its officers. It should exercise ethical behavior in all its dealings. Everything should be above board.

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