So you have heard about Process Operators belonging to unions and you want to know more about how unions work?
Lets get a quick disclaimer out of the way. I am now in supervision, but at one time I was a dues paying a unions member. So with that said, I am neither pro-union, nor am I anti-union. I will tell you about what I perceive as facts, and nothing else.
A union is a contract between the operators at a site, and the company that owns the site. That contract can spell out everything from how overtime is awarded, your pay and progression, and to the benefits you will recieve. Depending on the site you get hired to work in, it may be a union-shop or not. Just because a company has a union at one site does not mean they do at another site. A union-shop, just refers to the fact that a whole site’s operators are in a union. You may be asking yourself if you have to join a union to work at a union site. The answer depends on the laws of the state that you live in. Most states, including mine are right to work states. That basically means you have the right to work there, regardless if you choose to belong to the union or not. After your probationary period, the union has to represent you even if you are not a dues paying member. Representing you can mean having a union representative with you during questioning regarding an investigation, or it could mean fighting to get your job back if you are terminated without just cause. Will you get the same quality of representation as a dues paying member if you choose not to join the union? No, they have no incentive to help you other than a compulsory obligation.
Why join the union? One reason could be for job protection. You will have a better quality of representation from the union if a issue with your job would arise, Another reason could be a moral obligation. Other dues paying members fought hard to get the wording in the contract that grants you the benefits and protections you have as a Process Operator at that site. Lastly, and one I’ve seen often is peer pressure, or union leadership pressure. Stronger union members will work hard to pressure the new and unsure Operators to sign up for the union. Back in the day, older Operators would not talk to new Operators who did not pay dues let alone help train them. Non paying members would literally be outcasts in their own units. That is not really the case today. It isn’t acceptable for Operators to refuse to train Operators, or even to not provide them with accurate information.
Why not to join the union? Well first off is money, as a good operator you do not perceive to receive anything from the money that you pay the union because you stay out of trouble and do your job correctly. Another reason is frustration with the union itself. Unions tend not to be very well oiled machines, and minus all of the political advertising, you really don’t hear much from yours till contract time. At that time you don’t hear enough information, and not in a timely manner. Lastly, some Process Operators think that by not going the union that may make them look more favorable to management, and help them to be shown favoritism, or promotion above their peers. This reasoning is dead wrong. The company does not really care if YOU personally are union or not. Now thats not to say they would not like to see the unions numbers dwindle down till it collapses, but the don’t actively push for it.
The USW is the one of the largest unions in the United States, and the largest union representing Process Operators. Your site would be called a local, and it would belong to the USW. You can read about the USW by clicking the link below.