Unions are more important than ever before. Workers have less power when they act individually, but acting together as a group they can effect real change. Unions are the collective voice of workers. Unions are the workers; watchdogs, using their power to ensure that workers rights under the law are protected.
It’s no secret that in a global economy, the nature of work is changing and some employers resist unions. Research consistently shows that far more workers would join unions if anti-union campaigns weren’t so common. Misinformation and intimidation – including firing union supporters – are routine responses when workers try to form unions. Contrary to anti-union rhetoric, however, employers actually stand to benefit from unionization.
In addition to ensuring fairness and equitable treatment, unions help many employers recognize the advantages to offering workers better wages and benefits. Companies concerned about long-term profitability want to maintain a supply of skilled labor and minimize turnover –and unions can help! The basic reason for this is simple: by providing workers with a voice, unions increase worker satisfaction, thus reducing turnover. Another value of an organized workforce is that workers bring increased skill and knowledge to the job, which helps increase productivity.
Labor unions are groups of workers that banded together to have a say in their wages and working conditions, and take collective action to improve their lives. The labor movement encompasses all unions, union members, and union organizations acting collectively.
There are approximately 15 million workers in unions and employee associations in the United States and approximately 4.5 million union workers in Canada.
As a worker, you have a federally guaranteed right to form or join a union, and bargain collectively with your employer. BAC Local Union/Administrative District Council (ADC) officers and staff are the representatives of the Union who help workers deal with unfair treatment, discrimination and other workplace issues. This helps balance the power that an employer has over individual employees.
Belonging to a union gives you rights under the law that you do not have as an individual. Once you have formed a union, your employer must bargain with your union over your wages, benefits, hours and working conditions. As a result, union workers, on average, earn higher wages and get more benefits than workers who don’t have a voice on the job.
Representatives of labor and management negotiate over wages and benefits, hours and working conditions. The settlement reached is spelled out in a written document or contract, which normally contains a grievance procedure to settle disputes. It is the job of the union to enforce that contract on behalf of its members.
The efforts of unions to establish collective bargaining are a little known – but very important – part of North American history. Management has often taken the position that because they owned the means of production, they had the sole right to determine the conditions of employment. But, thanks to the great sacrifice and bitter struggle of many workers, collective bargaining forms the cornerstone of today’s workplace democracy.
As a BAC member you have access to information about job openings only available to Union craftworkers. Make the most of it by attending your Local/ADC or Chapter meetings to learn about work opportunities. If you are out of work, contact your Local Union and have them add your name to their “out of work list,” or contact contractors directly about employment.
Your first line of defense is the BAC steward assigned to the job. If there is no steward, contact your Local/ADC officer or Field Representative as soon as possible. Early notification enables your Local/ADC officers and representatives to better represent you and address your concerns.
Yes. Your affiliation with BAC means you can travel to other Locals’ markets and be guaranteed Union wages, protection, and support. When you travel outside of your home Local, be sure to check in with the Local/ADC in the area where you plan to work.
BAC members are covered by collective bargaining agreements – legally binding documents explaining what the contractor must pay you in wages, when and how wages will increase, and the fringe benefits available. The collective bargaining agreement also outlines the work rules the contractor has agreed to follow. To make sure you understand your rights, contact your Local/ADC for a copy of its collective bargaining agreement.
Contractors make direct contributions to benefit funds. The funds keep track of the hours you work and ensures that the appropriate contributions are being made, following up with delinquent contractors until the money is deposited properly. You can help by keeping copies of all pay stubs, since they indicate the number of hours you worked and the contributions your employer owes. Pay stubs can be valuable evidence when a contractor has not paid you fairly or has failed to make contributions. Information from pay stubs can also be useful if you are injured or become ill from a job-related hazard. International and Local benefit funds send participants annual or periodic statements, which can be used to verify the accuracy of their records.
Every active BAC member is required to pay dues as outlined in the Union’s Constitution. These funds are used by your Local/ADC and the International Union to negotiate with employers for better wages, working conditions, and benefits for BAC members. Dues are also used to represent members on the job, to defend those who have been treated unfairly, to develop member programs and services, and to keep the unionized masonry-trowel trades industry strong to ensure that there will always be Union jobs.
“Working dues” indicates an amount deducted from wages per hours worked by a member. “Base dues” refers to a set amount that is changed monthly. This structure was adopted so that members’ dues payments are lower when they are out of work.
In the U.S., Union dues and initiation fees are deductible as an itemized deduction. The amount that can be deducted is set by the IRS and calculated as a percentage of your adjusted gross income. In Canada, for Canadian federal tax returns and for all provinces other than Quebec, union dues are deductible from income. For Quebec provincial tax returns, union dues are treated as a tax credit. A member in Quebec would multiply the amount of dues paid in the year by a percentage set by the government, and then subtract then subtract that amount directly from the tax owed.
It is important to note that tax rules in both countries are subject to change. Members should consult their tax form instructions each year.