By Fred Timpner, MAFF Executive Director

The anti-union sentiment spreading across this nation seemed to take hold in the U.S. Supreme Court, which fred1recently ruled workers can decide if they want to pay dues in a unionized workforce in the Janus vs. AFSCME case. Yet “free riders” enjoy better working conditions, hours, wages and benefits thanks to the same union they refuse to support.

Unions exist to protect employees’ rights to fair working conditions, reasonable hours and wages. When MAP, MAPE and MAFF members band together to advance their concerns with Employers through collective bargaining, positive changes occur. In fact, unions have been so successful at the bargaining table that some Employers are working hard to weaken them.

The “right-to-work” campaign focused on individuals rights to choose whether to pay dues. When it was implemented in Michigan, proponents wanted workers to believe they were benefitting by having a few extra dollars in their pockets. But free riders not only cost the union money, they cost themselves money in the long run. When you refuse to support the union representing you and your co-workers, it takes away needed funds to protect worker rights, benefits, and jobs.

A large reason the middle class is where it is today is because unions fought for 40-hour work weeks, established grievance practices, required just cause discipline, and bargained for good pensions and affordable healthcare. No Employer ever came to the bargaining table and said, ‘Good job, we’re going to give you retiree healthcare or a really good pension.’

MAP, MAPE, and MAFF concentrate on our members needs to give them the best possible representation the law permits. The three unions have also weathered the right-to-work storm by saving members money. Our dues are some of the lowest among area unions.

Those who jump on the “anti-union” bandwagon need to understand why it’s so important to support their union. Union members can help by talking to fellow employees who may be thinking of becoming a free rider. For example, do they know that Police Officers and other public employees used to have 6-day work weeks? Are they aware, that in the 1950s, Detroit Police had to buy their own sidearms and their own bullets? Do they know many Employers today chose to make law enforcement and fire fighters exempt from Social Security to save money by not having to contribute to the Social Security system on their behalf? They may not understand that it’s also why MAP and MAFF members have pensions with higher multipliers than those with Social Security benefits.

Now Employers are saying we cannot have these higher pensions, but they are not going to put us on Social Security either. This has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat, being pro- or anti-Trump. These are bread and butter issues. Every time someone says, ‘I’m going to take a free ride,’ they not only hurt themselves, they hurt their fellow workers.

MAP, MAPE and MAFF go above and beyond labor service. There have been numerous occasions when MAP provided attorneys for Police Officers involved in on duty shootings to give their Garrity statement. MAFF provided a criminal attorney to assist with investigation when an EMS worker was involved in a fatal accident on the way to a run. MAPE assisted public-sector employees in a local court when they were falsely accused of stealing bond money.

When a member decides to exercise his or her right to not pay dues, they will NOT receive this type of legal representation. Only dues paying members receive the added protection of an attorney. Make no mistake, we will represent them for any job action or any other contractual right that may have been violated. Since criminal attorneys are not a contractual benefit, but a Union benefit, it is restricted by the Union to only dues paying members.

Union Members also have the added benefit of attending free grievance seminars to educate themselves on their rights as employees. They can save money through Member Rewards programs with group rates on auto and homeowners insurance and, as MSU credit union members, they are eligible for an interest rate reduction on all loans.