Your Voice, Your Choice
OPEIU Local 39
September 2017
Have You Had Your Moment?
We're going to take a break from looking at our Bargaining Units to say Good-Bye to one of our Stewards. Laura Lowrey has been a steward at CUNA Mutual for over 20 years and this month she retires. We talked about what she found rewarding about being a Steward and what, after more than two decades, she would like to pass along to future Stewards.

In this issue we also have some news about job postings at CUNA Mutual, good news about how the nation thinks about Unions, a new scholarship opportunity, and more.
Interview with Laura Lowrey
Laura Lowrey will retire later this month from CUNA Mutual Group and we wish her the best as she begins the next chapter of her life but we are going to miss her. I know I am. When I had need of a Steward, Laura is whom I turned to. I knew that she would listen and that she'd be able to ask the right questions. Some of that was just her, but some of that she's learned after spending more than twenty years as a Union Steward helping out her fellow members. In addition to being a Steward, she's served on the Executive board as well as on the Bargaining Committee, working to make sure our contracts with the Company are as strong as they can be. Following is an excerpt of an email interview I conducted with Laura.

It seems there's always that moment when someone realizes how important the Union is to them and the company. For Laura, that moment came after she'd been at the company about five years, when the company had set up an Incentive program that everyone agreed to and then wanted to change the agreement, which would have cost Laura and her colleagues a 5% bonus. "I reached out to the Chief Steward at the time and she was able to persuade the company that if they wanted teams to combine their scores it should be agreed upon at the start of the year. That way each member of the team could give their input into the goals of both teams. I was hooked from then on. I thought that if the union would stand up for me I would step up and try to do my best to help them, and the rest of the membership. It was my pay it forward moment."

Being a Steward can be challenging, of course, but it has its rewards, too. I asked Laura what she found most rewarding: "Just being able to help someone that has been at the lowest possible point emotionally because of their current work situation and what they have had to endure. Helping them to gain control over the situation and regain their dignity and belief in themselves again. I hope that I have not been a hindrance in anyone's fight, but that I have been helpful and at least let them know that someone cares about them."

In my experience, Laura has been unfailingly kind, considerate, easy-going, so I was surprised by her answer to what she enjoyed about working with the Union: "I think that it is the fights that I have participated in. I was not always as outspoken as I am now, it was hard for me to make noise because then people would notice me. I found my own voice by fighting for others to get theirs." In the same vein, when asked about what sort of skills she learned while being a Steward she replied: "I am better at negotiating, even the little things. I am better at listening, I have more patience and I have found the strength that I need to stand up, and speak out, for myself." Proving that being kind and easy-going does not mean you can't stand strong when you need to.

A lot has changed at CUNA Mutual since Laura started working there. I asked her what advice she might have for people joining the company today: "Keep an open mind to the people you meet and work with. They may have stories about the company and management that are positive and/or negative and you need to make your own decisions about what the company and management mean to you. It is possible to have a long career with this company and make a lot of friends if you keep a positive attitude, learn new things every day, be helpful when you can and ask for help when it is needed." Were there any lessons she'd like to pass on? "Listen more than talk. Be prepared to deal with all sorts of different types of people. Give everyone a chance. Talk to people not at them. Treat others the way you want to be treated. And, remember what your mother said. If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all."

With the loss of Laura to retirement and others to job changes, the Union needs new people to step forward as Stewards. It can be challenging work, but being a Steward can affect your life in positive ways. Don't take my word for it. Take Laura's: "I think that each of us gets wrapped up in our jobs, getting the work done and then going home for the day to our friends and families. We each have our own world and the problems in it to deal with. We miss opportunities to see that others are doing the same thing day in and day out but that perhaps theirs is just a bit more troublesome. They are having to bear something that at times can be unbearable. Being a steward has forced me to look, watch, listen, ask questions. It has helped me notice more than I think that I would have without being a steward. Noticing something is the first step in helping someone with whatever it is that they need help on."

If you've had your moment of realization about the Union and think you could help by being a Steward, contact the Chief Steward, Mike Pionke.
Do I have to apply?
It's come to our attention that CUNA Mutual Group has begun posting jobs for what seem to be positions already held by Union members. The Members are being pressured to apply for what is, essentially, their own job.

Please know that you do not have to apply! If you have not been notified that your job has been eliminated, you are under no obligation to apply for a different position (even if it seems remarkably like your current position).
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Of course, if the position sounds interesting, go ahead and apply for it! But nothing happens to you or your job unless or until the Company tells you the position is eliminated. If that happens, then you go through the normal layoff process, entitled to the regular 4-week option, severance, and so on.

Contact the Union office if you have more questions.
Highest Level of Support in more than a decade!
It might not seem like it, given all the Labor bashing that we've heard from state leaders, but according to the AFL-CIO "Americans across the country are giving labor unions the thumbs up."

Better yet, "54% of workers said they'd join a union tomorrow if given the option."
Giving Workers the ability to
"unrig the economy"
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Unions help people by "Giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig the economy." Click on the image below for more.
Wisconsin Labor History Society Scholarships
Three Contests to get Labor History into schools
Today's students are missing out on an important part of their education. They rarely get to hear anything about the role of Labor in building our country. The Wisconsin Labor History Society (WLHS) are offering cash prizes to middle and high school students to "encourage their study of labor history."

Don't forget to have your child apply to one of these other Union Scholarships !
Membership Meetings
Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of the quarter, at 5:30 PM in the Union Office.

November 15, 2017
February 21, 2018
May 16, 2018
August 15, 2018

This is your Union. Your participation gives us the strength to face the continued opposition of both companies and politicians.
Unions = Gym Membership
Know Your Weingarten Rights!
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff. These are called Weingarten Rights.
 
An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.
 
You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview. Management does not have to remind you of this right. If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer. Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed. If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."
Local 39 Union Offices
701 Watson Ave
Ste 102
Madison WI 53713
If you have any news you would like to share with other Members, please let us know! You can contact us via email or on our Facebook page.