About five years ago, some of us were worried about the United States Supreme Court as they considered the case Janus v. AFSCME. In short, it was a matter of concern since 1977 Abud v. Detroit Board of Educ The Supreme Court allowed agency fees, and since most localities made their agency fee rate their membership fee rate, many union members were probably only members because they had to pay anyway. We now know, Abud Gone and our members didn’t. Only 73 of CCA’s nearly 11,000 members filed drop cards between June 2018 and November 2022.
While the occasional anti-union group sends out postcards claiming that unions are worthless and you shouldn’t give them any money, I believe my membership in CCA/CTA/NEA is probably the best investment I’ve ever made. My union membership costs a little more than 1 percent of my salary, but according to the Economic Policy Institute, the average worker covered by a union contract earns 10.2 percent more wages than colleagues with the same education, occupation, and experience. same industry. In addition to better wages, 94 percent of union workers have access to employer-sponsored health care, compared to 68 percent of non-union workers. Also, 93 percent of union members have a retirement plan at work, with one-third having a defined benefit plan (ie: traditional pension) and another third having a composite defined benefit/defined contribution plan. By comparison, one in nine non-union jobs includes any type of defined benefit, and one-third of non-union workers have no retirement plan at all!
Going beyond wages, health insurance, and retirement, union workers are more likely to have paid vacation days, paid sick leave, and paid medical leave. They are more likely to have a predictable schedule and are more likely to be aware and attentive to political issues. Union members generally have better job security protections than non-union workers, are less likely to be “at-will” employees and are more likely to have a grievance or appeals process if they are accused of wrongdoing.
There is also evidence that unions promote equity. The US Department of Labor recently found that combined women, whether white, black or Hispanic, had roughly the same average weekly earnings.
While the gender pay gap still exists in many places, it is much smaller in union positions. Being in a union, I can rely on my negotiating team to spend hours working on my contract, something I don’t have time to do myself. That contract will be the same for all other teachers in my district.
While California laws currently provide us with many protections thanks in large part to past union action, laws can change and bills that cause change pop up all the time. Now, AB 739 and AB 1246 seek to make changes to California’s public pension systems. Although the two bills are currently “spot” bills that don’t do much, they could be significantly amended. As most teachers focus on their jobs, their families and their local circumstances, we need the NEA to push for education in Washington DC, and we need the CTA to work to improve working conditions regulations and school budgets in Sacramento. We need the CCA to review all higher education bill language, advocate for faculty in the Chancellor’s Office, and work with other statewide faculty groups. We need our local negotiating team working on contract reform. There are people who want to harm public education and others who want to “fix” it, and our union is one of the few ways we can stand together and gain political relevance.
In March, I attended the NEA Higher Education Conference. I know the faculty at California is in a relatively good place. Only six states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, and Washington) have more than 15 percent of workers unionized. By comparison, fewer than 5 percent of workers in eleven states are unionized. Our union has championed and defended higher wages, better benefits, safer workplaces and pension-based retirement. That’s a really, really good investment.
If you want to learn more about this topic, I suggest you start with the review dol.gov/general/workcenter/union-advantage and epi.org/publication/unions-and-well-being.
As a final note, I would like to remind you that the CCA Spring Conference will be held April 28 – 30 in Costa Mesa. The conference will include elections (including president and vice president), awards, a business meeting, and breakout and general sessions. If you are an official representative from your college, we will cover all general conference costs, including travel expenses and meals. Registration is now open cca4us.org/conferences. I hope to see you there!