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Marissa Beck

Ms. Thomson (Pd. 8)

AP English Lang. and Comp.
20 January 2017
The Downfalls of Being a Part-Time Union Member

As the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, once stated, The cornerstones

of the middle-class security all bear the Union label. This statement may be true for the middle-

class working America, but is it true for the thousands of part-time workers who are still

obtaining an education for their future? Unions are described as an organization of workers

dedicated to protecting members interests and improving wages, hours, and working conditions

(Union Plus). The slogan for one of Americas largest labor union claims to be beneficial for

all of its members: Were the United Food and Commercial Workers International, a proud

union family of 1.3 million hard-working men and women working together to provide a better

life for our families and yours (Your Friends and Neighbors). Although claiming to be

beneficial for all of their members, labor unions are being unjust to part-time workers and minors

because they have to pay union dues and do not receive all of the benefits as a full-time worker


Labor unions have been a part of American culture ever since the nineteenth century,

when massive immigration created a favorable labor market for business owners. Initially, labor

unions were created to fight for better working conditions in factories because factories were

very dangerous and the working hours were very long. Because of this, many different labor

unions were formed, including two important ones: The National Labor Union and the American

Federation of Labor. The National Labor Union was a major boost for the union movement, and

in just six years, over 600,000 people were part of it. The American Federation of Labor was
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formed in 1886 and was for skilled workers only. The American Federation of Labor shunned

politics for economic strategies and goals, something that unions today do not try to do (Kennedy

and Cohen).

Present-day unions try to side with the political party they believe will be most beneficial

for them. Unfortunately, many union members feel as if their union represents them in the wrong

way. According to Jason Douglass, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers

Union (UFCW) Local 23, Its one thing to want to fight for workers rights, its another thing to

shell out for political parties in the name of fighting for workers rights and its safe to say my

union doesnt represent me in any way, shape, or form. It is unjust for a union to affiliate itself

with one political party since not all of its members want to side with that same party. Also, it is

especially unfair to minors who work for a union because their union could be influencing the

way they think about politics when it comes time for them to choose a political party and a

presidential candidate.

Another disadvantage for part-time and minor union members are the union dues and

initiation fees. Dues can range from over $200 a year and they help the union pay for officials

salaries and conducting union business, but members sometimes complain about the money they

pay, how the money is spent, and how it is allocated between the national and local union

(Keller). Part-time workers are usually either in high school and college trying to get money for

their future, but they cannot save as much money as they could due to the union fees. It is unfair

to take money out of hard-earned paychecks in order to pay for someone elses salary and

benefits for other labor union members.

Although unions take money out of paychecks to pay for their causes, all union members,

including part-time workers, receive an increase in pay when they work on Sundays and
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holidays. As described by Brooke Taranto, a member of the UFCW Local 23, "I receive Sunday

pay and Holiday pay. As a part-timer on holidays we get four free hours of holiday pay

regardless if we actually work the holiday or not. Sunday pay and holiday pay is referring to

Article 12 of the UFCW Local 23 Bargaining Agreement, stating that "Employees hired on or

after June 25, 2010, will receive a fifty cents per hour premium for Sunday hours" (UFCW Local

23 and Giant Eagle Grocery: Collective Bargaining Agreement). Despite making an extra fifty

cents for every Sunday and holiday worked, it does not make up for the hundreds of dollars lost

every years to union fees. It is extremely imbalanced to make it seem as though a part-time

worker makes more money on Sundays, when in reality, they are not making as much more as

they would on any other given day; their hard earned money is going toward someone elses

paycheck and benefits.

One advantage that is available to part-time union members is the financial assistance

they can receive from their union. These scholarships can go toward assisting to pay for their

college tuition. Marissa Helfferich, a part-time worker and member of the United Food and

Commercial Workers Union Local 23, provided some insight on some of the benefits she

receives from her union, There are benefits that I receive such as the educational assistance,

making sure I am treated fairly should there ever be a problem with scheduling, and they also can

help if there were to be a problem with getting fired. These scholarships can really help a

member out, but is it worth taking the large amount of money out of their paychecks each year?

The average union-granted scholarship is about $2,000. Although this would seem like a member

could receive up to $8,000 for a four-year college program, the scholarship is only available to

those who are under the age of 20 years old. Since many go through college after the age of 20, a

member could only receive a scholarship for their first two years if they start college when they
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are 18 ("United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Scholarship). For example, if a part-

time worker started their job at the age of 16 and the union required them to pay dues of about

$500 per year, and that member of the union worked until they were out of college at 22 years

old, they would be paying roughly $3,500. Since not all members are guaranteed a scholarship, it

is generally unfair to the majority of part-time workers who lose about $500 a year to pay for

zero benefits.

According to Article 18 of UFCW Local 23 Bargaining Agreement, "The Company shall

participate in and contribute to the UFCW, Local 23 and Employers Health Fund" (UFCW

Agreement). This quote directly demonstrates that all members should receive health insurance

of some sort because they give money to the Employers Health Fund. The Bargaining Agreement

than explains that in some situations, such as part-time employees who are students, are not

eligible for healthcare benefits. This indicates that part-time students pay Union dues, but do not

receive healthcare insurances such as medical, dental, and vision care benefits. As indicated by

Brooke Taranto, "We dont receive any health benefits if we are in school or under our parents

health insurance, but yet we still pay monthly union dues for the full timers." This is extremely

biased to those workers who are full-time or part-time who are not students. Once again, a large

portion of part-time workers are paying for other people's benefits when they should be receiving

the same benefits as everyone else.

Labor Unions are being unfair to minors and part-time union members because they take

money out of their paycheck and do not allow them to have all the benefits. Most part-time

workers do not receive healthcare benefits, even though they pay union dues for them. Also, all

members of a union are funding causes that they might not believe in because all members are

required to pay dues. Part-time workers should be given the benefits they are entitled to since
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they pay union dues like everyone else. The validity of President Barack Obamas statement,

The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the Union label, is only true for middle-

aged Americans who have full time jobs that receive all the benefits from their union.

Unfortunately, part-time workers and minors have to become full-time employees to receive the

complete security of being a part of a labor union.

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Works Cited
Douglass, Jason. "Questions for Part-Time Union Members." E-mail interview. 03 Jan. 2017.

Helfferich, Marissa. "Questions for Part-Time Union Members." Personal interview. 05 Jan.


Keller, Larry. "The Pros and Cons of Joining a Labor Union." Fox Business. FOX News

Network, LLC, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 08 Jan. 2017.

Kennedy, David M., and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 16th ed. Vol. 1. Boston:

Cengage Learning, 2015. Print. Updated AP Edition.

Taranto, Brooke. Questions for Part-Time Union Members. E-mail interview. 06 Jan. 2017.

UFCW Local 23 and Giant Eagle Grocery: Collective Bargaining Agreement. N.p: UFCW

Local 23, n.d. Print.

"Union Plus." How Do Unions Work? Union Plus, n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.

"United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Scholarship." Cappex., LLC, n.d.

Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

"Your Friends and Neighbors." The United Food Commercial Workers International Union. The

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), n.d. Web. 16 Jan.