Message from the President
By Kathryn Bartlett-Mulvihill
An end of the year fundraising appeal from The Century Foundation* displays a spread of magazine covers featuring a wish list of future headlines the organization would one day like to see. Those headlines include “One-third of the workers in the United States are Union members” and “Wealth and Wage Gap Closed.”
Members of OPEIU Local 39 would probably like to see those same headlines too, someday. I mean, there’s a clear correlation between the decline in union membership and earning power for most Americans, and the dramatic increase in wage disparity that is having a devastating effect on people in local communities.
Still, we know there’s a lot standing in the way of making those forward-looking headlines happen. The business practice of outsourcing work to third party contractors may well be one of them. It’s certainly hard to join a local union or understand the needs of the local community if the company isn’t located there and the contracted employees aren’t offered permanent placement.
Unfortunately, the increased use of contractors is what we’re seeing at CUNA Mutual Group. It’s contributing greatly to the steady erosion of the bargaining unit from about 1600 in 2001 to less than 500 today.
CMG is not the only company that’s made outsourcing a part of its business model. The use of contractors has become industry standard across many sectors. That said, it’s important for every member regardless of where you are employed to be aware of the practice and to report it to your union steward as soon as you see it happening.
Unlike non-union companies, our employers have contracts with us. As partners in that agreement, we are uniquely positioned to work together to solve problems and accomplish what ought to be mutual goals of sustaining an engaged, well trained and productive workforce, grounded in the concerns of the local community.
With that in mind, we recently reached out to CMG to discuss our concerns about outsourcing. But in this new year we must become even more committed to the change we want to see, so we’ve started to bring those same concerns to the attention of other opinion and civic leaders as well. It is our hope that working together on new and innovative strategies designed to grow the union, we’ll begin to spread the value of organized labor across the community and finally produce the kinds of headlines we’d all like to see.
The Century Foundation
is one of the oldest public policy organizations in the world. Founded in 1919 by Edward Filene, the father of the credit union movement, the organization is a legacy to his commitment to social justice and workers’ rights. It regularly reports on workplace issues and trends, including the benefits of union representation and the right to organize.