Thursday, May 11, 2006

Why I Quit Union Local 27.

At first, I believed in Local 27, The United Food Workers Union. I bought into the many promises the union reps made to me and the other members.But the day came when these promises were not kept,their honeyed words turned to vinegar and I became angry, causing me to tender my resignation from this empty, ineffective and impotent organization.

I'd resisted joining for two years because the place I work at(Delaware Park) was an open shop. I honestly didn't feel the need to join. Then one day, I was at home hanging out when a union rep showed up at my door(how did we survive before Map Quest?). At first, I was dubious about this stranger in my home trying to enlist me into the union until he said," I understand the slot attendants are going to be doing taxables.(taxables are jackpots exceeding $1,199.95) Well, we think this is managers work and we're going to see to it that you either get more money or you don't do them." That did the trick for me;I joined immediately. The upshot of the story is, we ended up doing taxable jackpots anyway despite the reps promise.

About a month later, I saw this gentleman at Delaware Park playing the slots during my shift. He noticed me and flashing a winning smile called out," Hey Joe, How's it going."I walked up to to him replying in a rather unfriendly tone of voice," Let me tell you about it..." and proceeded to inform him about how after his promise to me, the slot attendants were doing taxables. Mister Pass The Buck held up his hands in a defensive manner and quickly stated," All I do just sign members up."

Here I had become a member based on a promise and I'd just been lied to. Despite this unhappy unfolding of events, I remained a member of Local 27. I was convinced that at the time of the union contract renewal,they would step up to the plate and do right by us.I kept this hope alive for a year and a half. I might as well have believed in The Easter Bunny when all was said and done.

During the year and a half, our union rep,Henry, would come by and check on us,oh,once in a blue moon. Sometimes I wondered if the union was cognizant that our chapter existed at all;that's how infrequently we would see him. But as soon as our contract was being renegotiated,Henry suddenly decided to show up and visit us with a frequency never before demonstrated.

During these meetings at the union hall ,Henry made another slew of promises and even though I'd been lied to before,again,I believed him.The slot attendants were becoming increasingly dissatisfied because of the installation of ticket slot machines,our tips were decreasing and our paychecks were $30.00-$40.00 less(the amount would decrease even more in the coming months.). We were told they'd fight to get our hourly rate increased by $2.00 an hour.

Another promise made concerned blackout days. Blackout days are the days where a slot attendant can't take the day off,unless the person calls out sick. These particular days are considered Delaware Parks busiest times,hence the term blackout days. Well, Henry announced that he thought blackout days were unfair and the union would do something about it.

Then came the day all of us union members looked forward to with anticipation :the new contract. Despite the fact that none of the slot attendants were allowed to attend the negotiation meetings, many of us assumed that the person representing our group fought like a pit bull to get more money,in addition to a better contract. In reality, the rep rolled over like a floppy eared puppy and eagerly accepted whatever scraps Delaware Parks owner doled out to them. Not only didn't we get the raise,  it was the slot techs who received a very nice two dollar an hour pay hike instead.

This was particularly galling since out of the entire tech department only two of them belong to the union. The blackout days remained in effect. However, we got an extra ten minutes added to our break(Hallelujah! Saints be praised!). And,it is in our contract that if Delaware Park doesn't need as many slot attendants in the future, instead of being laid off the employees will be given other positions;i.e housekeeping or some other low level,low paying, menial position.

Oh,and we were told another lie: Henry said," You'll still receive the same rate of pay." I immediately countered with," Bullshit, Henry. We 'll lose our seniority and be paid whatever the starting rate in that department is." His mealy-mouthed response was," At least you'll still be working."

I can just see in now: I'll be making a whopping $8.50 an hour. I will then go to my car loan company and say," Could you please lower my monthly car payments? My weekly paycheck is much lower than it used to be." I'll also give the same speech to the cable company,car insurance, gas and electric,ect. And I'm sure, I mean really sure,as such as I'm writing at this very moment that they'll all say in unison," Okey, Joe. We understand. You can pay us less." Yeah. Right. And then I'll hit the Powerball for one hundred million while I'm at it,too.

As you can imagine, the roomful of union members was hardly beside themselves with glee.Actually, it was more like an angry lynch mob. Now, just take a moment to think about whom we wanted to lynch. If you guessed the union reps,then put a little gold star next to your name;you earned it. Anyhoo, there was a whole lot of grumbling going on and the entire room was going to turn this feeble joke of a contract down cold. We were ready to rumble!

Now, you're probably thinking that our fearless union leader was readying to rally to our defense, that this fighter of the working man would go back to the bargaining table and tell Delaware Parks owner that this paltry contract was unacceptable and we wanted more! I wish.

What our representative said was(now get a load of this)," I could go back to the bargaining table, but he won't give you anything more. This is the best you're going to get."  Yes, my friends, Union 27 unhesitatingly threw us under the bus. There was nothing we could do about it.

I was totally and completely disillusioned. Plus, I was mighty pissed about the entire debacle. Add to that a case of intestinal virus, and the day after our crappy excuse of a union contract was pushed through I went to the union hall to resign, filled with disgust. I was given a phone number of the main office which when I contacted them, I was informed that it would take a a year before my resignation would be in effect. Naturally, I didn't like this answer. So I did a little research and found out that if I went right to the human resource department with a note stating that I wanted out of the union, it would take only two weeks. Local 27 lied again! Because in exactly two weeks I no longer had the union extracting $5.75 a week from my hard earned paycheck and getting nothing but hollow words in return.

What galled me the most was the fact that I actually believed in this union. For a year and a half I thumped the tub in their defense, because I bought into their shallow, meaningless promises hook,line and sinker. I think I was as angry at myself for my naivete as I was was for the unions outright dishonesty so they could continue to keep fattening their organization with our weekly union dues.
Although the story doesn't end very happily for us union members, Henry wound up with a fat payday; his reward for embedding the useless, worthless Local 27 into the fabric of Delaware Park for another four years. Following his windfall, he retired with the sizable bonus in hand.

It was Local 27 who ended up the winner in the union contract negotiations while the members they were hired to represent came out of it the losers. And let me assure you, I'm one sore loser. Recently, Henry's replacement came around Delaware Park shaking hands and introducing himself to the employees. I wouldn't give him the time of day; that's how angry I am at that lazy,lackadaisical, do nothing but fatten their pockets with our weekly dues union.

Let me be blunt, most of the union members at Delaware Park think that Local 27 is as useful as tits on a bull. But they have no other union, albeit, a stronger, better union, to take  Local 27's place. Delaware Park's employee's need the kind of union that's like a mighty lion; ready to defend it's members, instead of  paying good money every week to support a fat,old lion with neither claws or teeth.

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