A New Year and a Chance to Look Ahead
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.
Surprise! Study finds employers often break law to keep unions out
A report released last month by Economic Policy Institute (EPI) makes clear the nearly impossible task workers have trying to exercise their lawful right to organize a union in their workplace. The study found a staggering 41.5-percent of employers involved in union election campaigns were charged with violating federal law. These charges ranged from making threats to engaging in unlawful surveillance and harassment, including the firing of workers for engaging in union activity in one of every five union election campaigns. The report also found that employers spent roughly $340 million annually to consultants to help them delay and defeat organizing efforts.
While 64-percent of American workers say they would like to be members of a union, the EPI report makes clear why the number of actual union members currently hovers around 13-percent of the workforce, and an even lower 8-percent in the private sector.
Unlawful: U.S. employers are charged with violating...

Unions are good for workers. But the data show that U.S. employers are willing to use a wide range of legal and illegal tactics to frustrate the rights of workers to form unions and collectively bargain. Employers are charged with violating...

Read more
Now it Begins!
This is going to be an important year as we'll get many chances to go to the polls to have our voices heard. There are many things to keep in mind this election year:
  • There is a push going on to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters. Make sure you have not been purged from the voter rolls by going to MyVote Wisconsin
  • Elections will be held in February, April, May, August, and November! Your voice often counts more in the primary elections because of lower turnout (and you'll know you haven't been purged from the system!)
  • The next election is for Supreme Court primary, held on February 18, 2020. Get to know the candidates!
Work is why workers need unions
A recent post on the OPEIU Local 39 Facebook page provides more examples of why workers, regardless of industry, deserve a chance to join a Union. In “Why do Museums Need Unions?”, writer Eileen Cartter reveals why workers at a number of New York City cultural centers successfully fought for union recognition last year. Becoming fed up with the perception that artists live to create, and stagnant hourly wages mere pennies above minimum, they took on the cultural establishment and won, one iconic institution at a time.

“We used to have an old slogan in our union: ‘You can’t eat prestige.’”
Why Do Museums Need Unions?

Tenement Museum. (Photo by: Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) On June 25, a crowd assembled outside of the New Museum in Manhattan to support its employees' union as they endure tense, ongoing talks with the museum's...

Read more
Cash prizes for high school labor history essay contest
The Wisconsin Labor History Society is accepting submissions from Wisconsin high school students for the Society’s annual Labor History Essay contest. Students are asked to write essays of about 750 words on the topic: “Unions have been important to my family and my community because …”. Students are encouraged to interview family members, neighbors and friends or others for their stories about work and unions. Cash prizes of up to $500 will be awarded in first, second, third and honorably mention categories. Click on the Read More link (below) for more information.

Deadline for submission is February 15. Click this link for submission guidelines.
Essay Contest for Wisconsin High School Students

All Wisconsin high school students (grades 9-12) are eligible to participate in a High School Essay Contest conducted annually by the Wisconsin Labor History Society. The high school students are asked to write an essay of approximately 750 words ...

Read more
See something? Say something
Have you been asked to train or perform duties outside your job description, and it just didn’t feel right?

Ever notice a temp move department to department cycling from one short term assignment to the next?

Has a contractor assumed duties in your department that you thought should have been done in-house?

Has a contractor been used to backfill a position or expand your project team when you thought it should have been filled by yourself or a co-worker?

To anyone interested in maintaining the integrity of the contract, these questions deserve answers. But first they need to be asked. That’s where members are key. Each and every workday, you are the eyes and ears of the contract. Without your vigilance, our work and work rules can become so blurred they might eventually disappear. So, if you see something – say something to a Steward. They are there to follow-up and ensure the contract is fairly and faithfully followed.