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FAQ about Union Representation

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About Union Representation

What is a Union?
A union is an organization of workers joined together for a common purpose. It exists to engage in collective bargaining in order to secure decent work conditions, benefits and wages. Workers found out that individually they did not have the same strength as they do when they stand together. Being in a union is the best way to secure your rights as employees.

Why are Unions important?
There are lots of advantages to union representation. A worker may join a union for any number of reasons. The truth is that most workers join unions to protect themselves from management's unfair, arbitrary or even malicious behavior.

What are Union Dues and what are they used for? 
Union dues is the money paid to a union to help pay for support staff, legal costs, negotiation costs, arbitrator's fees, etc. Union dues can not be raised without the majority vote of the membership of the local. Union dues received by the Local, are also sent out to different entities such as the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the State and local Building Trades Departments. They also go to pay for stickers, tee-shirts and union events.

What are non-union dues?
Every dollar less than union scale that your boss does not pay you. This would include the pension money. For the amount of money that you have deducted from your pay check to cover your health insurance and your family's coverage, any amount of overtime that the boss refuses to pay you even though it is a state law.

What does the International Union do?
International unions are heavily involved in legislation. They lobby Congress for changes in labor and employment law. Laws that benefit the average worker are the most important to these International representatives.  International Unions also provide help to locals that are in need as well as coordinate national organizing efforts. They also oversee and maintain the integrity of local unions.

What is a Union Shop?
To be a Union Shop means that all employees within the collective bargaining unit must be a part of the union. It is a standard clause contained within union and labor contracts. It enables the union to bargain from a stronger position. This not only serves the individual, but all the other members employed in the company.

Will I be able to participate in the union?
Yes! The union encourages its members to come to meetings, run for office, vote on all issues as they come up, keep track as to how your dues money is being spent and know what is happening at all levels.

How democratic is the Union?
The whole process is open and democratic. You decide whether to vote "yes" on joining the union. You vote on who will be the officers of your local. You decide which co-workers you want on your negotiating team.

Who runs the Union?
 Local #4 is run by the President, Secretary Treasurer and four Vice-chairpersons who make up the Management Committee. The President,  Secretary Treasurer and Vice-Chairpersons are elected every three years by the membership as mandated by federal law. The President oversees the day to day operation of the local with oversight from the management committee and the membership.

What is a Union Business Agent/Field Representative?
A Business Agent/Field Representative is an official of your local union. They are appointed by the president and approved to work by a majority vote of the management committee. They are paid employees of the local who work under the direction of the president.

What is the job of a Union Business Agent/Field Representative?
They find jobsites and work that is being performed in their assigned area. They checks on who is doing the brick, tile, stone, marble or terrazzo work on the jobsite. If a Union Contractor: Enforces our CBA  Checks status of workers to ensure they are members of Local #4 and current in their dues. Takes complaints from members and tries to solve the problem. Keeps the members informed of any current issues. If Non-Union Contractor: Talks to the General Contractor about the N/U Contractor - Gathers information about the N/U Contractor. Talks to the workers and collects information about their working conditions including pay rate etc.- enforce prevailing wage laws. They try and organize contractors and workers into the union. They attend building trades and other meetings and report back to the president about issues that might affect the local.

How does the Union work out problems with management?
Through the grievance procedure. The contract spells out what the grievance procedures are and explains how conflicts are to be resolved. When management or violates a provision of the contract there are steps spelled out in the contract to resolve the problem. First, talk with your supervisor. When he or she refuses to do anything about it, go to your Union Field Representative for help. If it can't be resolved at this meeting, a Representative from the union approaches the company to discuss the issue. If the problem still cannot be resolved to everyone's satisfaction, the Union appeals to the Joint Arbitration Board. If this step fails, both parties bring in a neutral arbitrator to hear evidence and order a final resolution of the problem.