The tangible and intangible value of your union

By DAVID A. COOK
President

As an organization, we talk a lot about the value of being a union partner. That value is both tangible and intangible, and can sometimes be forgotten in the daily shuffle of our lives. Sometimes, the union brings value that the average person never finds out about.

COMMUNITY GIVING
This past holiday season, the children at Mercy Children’s Hospital received value from a union and never knew it — as Local 655 delivered Christmas presents for the children that were in the hospital over the holidays.

Over the years, Local 655 has generated more than $500,000 in donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to help fund their medical research. LLS directly credits UFCW for funding research which has significantly reduced the mortality rate for numerous blood cancers. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who have survived leukemia as a direct result of unions like ours. Their value of their very lives can’t be calculated, and yet it’s value they have because of a union.

HEALTH & WELFARE
If you talk to a Local 655 partners today about the value their union brings to them, they will most likely talk about their health insurance.

The Local 655 Health & Welfare fund pays about $60 million in medical claims annually. That’s $60 million our partners don’t have to pay out of their pockets. That’s $60 million that our partners won’t be billed. In other words, it’s $60 million our partners don’t have to worry about while also focusing on their health.

PENSION BENEFIT
For Local 655 partners nearing retirement, their pension benefit is of enormous value. More and more we see workers retire without pensions at all as they become less common in non-union workplaces.

By contrast, many Local 655 partners who retire after the age of 62 actually see their monthly income go up when their pension and Social Security checks are combined. Retiring with more income than when you were working isn’t something many Americans get to enjoy, and it’s one of the most important ways we bring value to our partners.

REGULAR RAISES
I could talk about wages and how guaranteed regular wage increases are enjoyed by most of our partners despite being fairly rare in non-union workplaces. Our partners under those kinds of contracts don’t have to beg their manager for more money or hope they are on the boss’s good side when they hand out wage increases.

Our partners are guaranteed their raises because they’ve earned them, and they have a contract that makes them a requirement.

GRIEVANCES, BACKPAY & REINSTATEMENT
Much of the value we provide is done behind the scenes as part of our jobs to represent our partners every day. Every day our union representatives and our grievance process helps protect our partners from unjust termination, wage theft, unjust discipline, and more.

In the last quarter alone, we generated more than $19,000 in backpay or other compensation for our partners. That number only captures the amount we’ve won in formal grievances, and doesn’t include the money we win for our partners in disputes resolved before reaching the full grievance process.

In fact, in the calendar year 2021, we generated more than $50,000 for our partners in the formal grievance process, often getting these individuals back to work or ensuring they are paid money that was owed to them. When one of our smaller employers failed to increase worker pay as was laid out in the contract, we secured checks for backpay for every single employee of that company.

Every dollar we put in a partner’s pocket can be measured and tracked. It has tangible value to that individual who can now afford to put food on their table or pay their bills.

This doesn’t even address the intangible value we bring to our partners when they contact us for any number of issues at work. Our partners look for answers on everything from basic contract questions to scheduling issues to issues related to respect and fair treatment in the workplace.

BETTER STANDARD OF LIVING FOR ALL
Unions bring value wherever they can be found. If they aren’t putting more money in workers’ pockets or securing better benefits, they are driving up the floor for wages and benefits that non-union businesses must compete with.

They contribute to their local communities and raise the standard-of-living for all.

Unions are neither perfect nor above scrutiny. In fact, it’s the scrutiny of our partners in the form of an engaged workplace that cares about their contract that gives us more bargaining and organizing leverage.

The work is never done. There are always new ways to help our partners and our communities, and Local 655 will continue to strive to do just that.

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