Guild Executive Board members are working on a new effort to encourage members to keep paying their dues.
At its September 9 meeting, the board discussed a sudden dropoff in dues that occurred in August. It was not entirely unusual: Dues dropped off in August last year too as people on vacation delayed their payments to the fall.
At last week’s membership meeting, there was some discussion about how many members were current. While only 72 people of 195 employees covered by the Guild were mentioned as current – and that’s the number that triggered the board’s discussion – that number is not an accurate gauge of member support.
For example, 21 members were only a single month behind. They had consistently paid dues since our automatic payroll deduction was cut off in April 2009. Many of the union’s most active members are among those 21 people, including two who are now on the Executive Board. (They paid their dues after the date the list was compiled and in time for the election.)
Another seven members were only two months’ behind. They also included activists (and one of them had just e-mailed the union to ask how much she owed again in order to pay the bill.)
Eight people were only three months’ behind. Some of those members paid their dues at the membership meeting.
Another half dozen people have come to the union and explained (sometimes in painful detail) the financial struggles they are facing with medical and other bills, or layoffs in their family, and have assured our leaders they still support the Guild but find the dues payment to be one they can delay. People who are not current on dues cannot attend meetings or vote in elections.
The Guild fairly regularly has people skip payments for a month or two and then catch up. A single number can be misleading.
Nevertheless, the board made it a priority to reach out to those who have not paid their dues. At the September 9 meeting, after seeing the summer dropoff, the Executive Board made plans to recruit volunteers to talk to members one on one who are behind. We are looking for about 10 people who are willing to chat with their colleagues.
If you are willing to do so, please contact the Guild office at 482-9218 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are behind in your dues payment and want to develop a repayment plan spread over several months, Guild Treasurer Dan Roesser will help make arrangements. Your privacy will be respected.
The union also is pursuing a legal case about the cutoff of our dues collection, which we believe was illegal. We sought to take the issue to an independent arbitrator for a decision, and the Times Union refused. We filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, and this summer Judge Gary Sharpe ordered the newspaper to allow the case to go to arbitration.
The TU responded by seeking a stay of the judge’s order while it appeals. Our lawyers advise us such a stay is highly unlikely. Within months, or less, we should receive news. If the stay is denied, we will immediately seek to go to arbitration. Selecting an arbitrator, holding a hearing and getting a decision would take several months.
In Providence, Rhode Island, the Guild faced a similar situation. The company declared impasse, cut off dues and the union filed suit. The Providence local won, and its dues collection was restored. The company had to pay all the back dues. To be fair to those who had consistently paid, the local gave a 50 percent refund to everyone who had remained current and required members who had been in arrears to pay half of what they owed.