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The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Grinding axes over unions
By Al Lewis
Denver Post
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jay Hesterman, a technician at Qwest, resigned from a union 14 years ago, but he still pays about $500 a year in dues and gets the union's newsletter anyway.

"I'm not necessarily anti-union," said Hesterman, 47.  "My dad was very strong into the union. . . . What the unions did, historically, proved a great balance against large corporations. . . . But I don't like the direction they are headed in now."

Hesterman, who has worked at the telephone company for 28 years, is a conservative Republican.  And unions generally give their money to Democrats.

He could apply to have the portion of his dues given to political causes refunded, but that requires paperwork.  And why should he have to give any money to a group that supports causes he doesn't?

"They've drifted from . . . protecting the main interest of the working man into the outskirts of politics," Hesterman said.

But it's not just about politics.

"I don't know how to say this without sounding harsh," said Hesterman.  "They represent some people who shouldn't be represented. . . . They represent some people who are looking to be nonworkers."

Give us your tired, your lazy, your entitled-to-every-sick-day.

Scores write back

Hesterman would no longer have to pay his union dues if Amendment 47, the right-to-work initiative on Colorado's November ballot, passes.

I have heard from scores of people in Hesterman's situation since my Sunday column solicited responses from people forced to pay union dues.

Now they're on my phone, in my e-mail and on my blogs.

Many of them say they will vote for Amendment 47 because they just don't like paying dues.  Others seem to wish unions didn't exist.

"Unions use the same methods as street thugs," wrote one reader.  "They steal the money of hard working people through lies and intimidation."

Wrote another:  "Every now and then, I complain to a manager about a worker who shows up late and is sometimes lazy.  They give him a warning.  He still shows up late and gets fired.  He goes to the union tells them he was tired . . . and gets his job back."

"I unwillingly have $44.75 taken out of my pay check every month," wrote another.  "My opinion of the . . . union is . . . we are nothing more than a 'cash cow.' "

Clearly, these sentiments will shape November's election.  So will more pro-union sentiments.

One caller said it best:  "People who don't want to pay union dues . . . let them go work at Wal-Mart and get paid nothing."

Just 8 percent of Colorado's employees are in unions, but all of the state's voters will have to decide how they feel about unions.

"Unions do good," Hesterman said.  "They hit the nail on the head sometimes.  But sometimes they are very anti-company. . . . They give us the feeling that somehow we should hate (the company).  That it's us against them."

Whether Amendment 47 passes or not, taking money from unwilling dues-payers is bad business.

It loads union ranks with dissenters.  Instead, unions should do more to actually appeal to people.

"If the union had to earn its money," said Hesterman, "it would really make them a better union."

Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to him at blogs.denverpost.com/lewis, 303-954-1967 or alewis @denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_9606354