What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won’t Say

Union Control Over You

“Joining a union means losing your professional status.” Your employer may state that you will lose control over your schedule, be forced to punch a time clock or required to take breaks at precisely the same time every day. ESC LOCAL 20 members are proud union professionals; our union helps us protect our professional status. All employees in ESC LOCAL 20 are proud of their professional qualifications, from Gas and Electric Estimators at PG&E, to licensed Clinical Lab Scientists and Optometrists at Kaiser Permanente, to Attorneys at Legal Aid at Work.  Members negotiate their own rules about overtime and scheduling with their employer; some choose paid overtime, others choose to remain overtime exempt.  Some members set their own schedule, but are still paid overtime during high workload periods.
“ESC LOCAL 20 will control promotions and job assignments.” Your employer may suggest that distant union officials will control working conditions and will be able to play favorites the way management can now. For the first time, you will have a transparent, fair system for promotions and job assignments. This will be your union.  The promotion and job assignments process will be negotiated with management by you and your co-workers. A union contract can limit management’s ability to use a different set of rules for each employee and use arbitrary criteria.  
“ESC LOCAL 20 won’t let you take a problem directly to management.” Your employer may claim that under ESC LOCAL 20 contracts workers must let “outsiders” from the union speak for them. ESC LOCAL 20 will help you talk to management, only if you ask for help. With ESC LOCAL 20, you will select co-workers to be stewards—people who will be trained to represent you on the job if you want them to. If you feel you can get results from your supervisor without help nothing stops you from doing so. But if you can’t, you will have the union to turn to.


“You can’t afford to pay union dues.”


You can’t afford NOT to have a union . Often, the improvements in pay and benefits that can be achieved through collective bargaining more than offset the dues you pay—plus you’ll get the improved treatment and respect that comes with a union contract.  Remember: you don’t pay any dues until you and your co-workers have voted to approve  a contract.

Union dues are used to benefit the members of the Union. To have a professional union that represents professional employees, we need resources to advance the goals of members and to enforce the contract.   Having a union office and experienced union staff and attorneys requires such resources.

“The union is only interested in you for your money.” ESC LOCAL 20 is a financially strong union which exists only to serve professionals. ESC LOCAL 20 members want to help other workers organize because every time a new group of workers gets a union contract, the benefits of collective bargaining are extended to other professionals.

ESC LOCAL 20’s strong financial condition is detailed in public reports filed with the Federal government which are available for inspection by any member.

“The union will just spend your money on corrupt schemes and big salaries for union officials.” Your employer may distribute reports which show union salaries and expenses. You may also be shown articles about charges of corruption in other unions. The democratically-elected Executive Board decides how to spend dues on services. If the employer violates the contract, the Union will use these resources to enforce the contract.

ESC LOCAL 20’s financial reports are provided every year to the federal government, which can bring charges if union money is being misused.

“The union can raise your dues or charge you other assessments whenever it feels like it.” Your employer may try to make you think that, once you are in the union, there will be costs you didn’t know about. Only you and your coworkers can decide to raise the dues that you pay. Dues are set by the Union’s Constitution at one and a half hours of pay per month, which means that increases in dues come only after much larger increases in pay. Raising the dues would require both executive board approval and a vote by the general membership.  In our 60 year history, we have never asked for a dues increase.


“Unions love strikes.” Your employer may talk as though the whole purpose of the union is to call strikes. Workers join ESC LOCAL 20 to improve their jobs, not to strike. Because we are a union of professionals, we always try to solve disputes in a professional manner.  Strikes are very much economic weapons of last resort and historically rare at ESC Local 20.
“The union can force you to strike.” Your employer may hint that, soon after you vote for a union, you will be on strike, like it or not, either over your own contract or to support ESC LOCAL 20 members somewhere else. Only workers themselves can decide to strike. In ESC LOCAL 20, a strike can only be called by a majority of the workers who would be directly involved—and only in a secret-ballot vote. You would never be asked to go on strike because of a dispute somewhere else.


“We won’t ever sign a union contract even if you vote for ESC LOCAL 20.” Since it is illegal for the employer to say this directly, you may be told instead: “Remember, we don’t have to agree to what you want in the union contract.” Your employer is legally required to negotiate with the union you choose. Nearly every employer talks tough before workers organize. But it is in the employer’s interest to keep the employees satisfied and keep the work flowing. So after you present your employer with reasonable contract proposals, a settlement is usually possible. If your employer really believes they won’t have to agree to improvements, why are they fighting against the union?
“You will lose wage levels and benefits you already have.” One common tactic is to distribute leaflets with two columns. One column shows a list of what you have now. The other column has a huge question mark and is labeled: “What you will have with ESC LOCAL 20.” Another common tactic is to show you ESC LOCAL 20 contracts with other employers which have pay levels or other provisions which are not as good as what you have now—without telling you what the workers there had before they joined ESC LOCAL 20. ESC LOCAL 20 members get better benefits, not worse. Members decide what to ask for in your contract and vote democratically whether to accept what is offered. No one from the outside could possibly “trade away” benefits you want to keep. What you win in your contract will depend on what you have to start with and how actively you and your co-workers participate in the union. If unions really lead to worse benefits, why doesn’t your employer want to get the union in now so they can start increasing their profits?
“Individual union supporters will lose their jobs.” Your employer may hint that they plan to take action against those who support the union. It’s against the law to punish anyone for supporting a union. This is why your employer doesn’t spell out this empty threat. ESC LOCAL 20 has expert legal counsel who will defend the rights of any worker who may have been punished for union activity and has successfully done so many times.
“We won’t be one big happy family anymore, so we’ll be less flexible.” Your employer may say that, if you have a union, new rules like punching a time clock or reduced flexibility in scheduling will be necessary. Your employer may even make some of these changes right now and try to blame them on the union. The union and management will get along fine—if management is willing. When you negotiate a contract with your employer, you can agree to as much flexibility for employees as you want. The only thing you will probably not want in your contract is flexibility for your employer to harass some workers and play favorites with others.


“Give us another chance—we’ll change.” Your employer may say that, now that you’ve shown you are dissatisfied, you and your employer can work out all the problems by yourselves, so why pay union dues? A union is the only way to make sure your employer changes. In most cases, the employer has had plenty of chances to change over the years.  If your employer is really willing to change, they can sign a fair contract. Some workers have listened to employers’ promises only to learn the hard way that promises are forgotten if the union is voted down.
“We’ll set up procedures for hearing your complaints.” These may include:

  • A new or improved “open door” policy or “worker participation” scheme so you can talk as an individual to top management when you have a suggestion or complaint.
  • A “grievance procedure” that is set up much like the system established by union contracts—except that the boss still has the final say.
Without a union, your employer still has the last word. New procedures for hearing complaints may sound good at first, but without a union your employer can simply ignore your ideas. ESC LOCAL 20 contracts provide for arbitration of disputes, so that if you and the employer can’t agree, the problem will be resolved by a neutral person chosen only with the approval of both sides. If your employer is so interested in what you have to say, why are they afraid to see you standing united while you say it?
“We’ll change a few things that are really bothering you.” Your employer may transfer one particularly unpopular supervisor or make changes in certain working conditions that have caused a lot of dissatisfaction. If you can get changes by talking union, imagine what you can get once you have joined. The experience of other workers shows that you have to continue your organizing to keep what you’ve won and get results the next time you have a problem.