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PEP Oct. 2002
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Public Employee Press

What your union dues do for you
"District Council 37 dues are one of the best investments you'll ever make."

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(PDF format*)

Unions raise pay

2002 dues allocation

2002 DC 37 budget

By Mark Rosenthal, Treasurer, DC 37

Nobody likes to see money taken from their paycheck. But your union dues are one of the best investments you'll ever make. Think about it:

  • Union members generally earn 25 percent higher pay than non-unionized employees who do the same work, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

  • Compared to non-union employees, unionized workers also get better benefits - such as health insurance, guaranteed pensions, prescription drug cards, eye glasses and tuition reimbursement. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, this "union premium" plus the salary difference gives union members a whopping 39 percent more in total compensation.

As treasurer, my job is to make sure your dues are properly spent. Together with our annual audit (see page 14 of PEP, Oct. issue), I thought it would be appropriate to explain in everyday language how your dues are used.

The lion's share of your duesover 50 percentgoes toward DC 37's operating budget$34.1 million in 2002.

Building and general expenses constitute the greatest share of our budget. These expendituresincluding maintenance, security, telephone services, data processing, payroll taxes, benefits and insurance- make it possible for union locals and DC 37 staff to do their job for you.

From grievances to contracts
Over a fifth of the budget goes for our six field divisions. Union reps in the divisions handle the grievances and job-related problems of our school, hospital, clerical-administrative, blue-collar, white-collar and professional members.

The executive office, led by DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, constitutes 13 percent of the budget. Ms. Roberts and her staff work closely with your chief elected officers (president, secretary and myself, the treasurer) and your local leaders to make sure members are serviced aggressively. They craft strategy to win contracts, strengthen our involvement with community allies and forge political ties.

As public employees, our jobs depend on elected officials and legislators who are committed to healthy government. Your Political Action and Legislation Dept. mobilizes members to help elect sympathetic politicians, fights for funding of government programs and promotes the passage of pro-worker legislation, such as the historic pension cost-of-living adjustments we won recently.

Staff in the Research and Negotiations Dept. does critical policy analysis and works closely with unit bargaining committees to shape the contracts that determine the pay and working conditions of our 125,000 members.

The Public Employee Press is mailed to the home of every DC 37 family to keep you informed about union news and activities. PEP and the union's Web site, radio show, media outreach and public relations campaigns put a positive face on the work of the union and its members, promote our political agenda, expose abuses at job sites and instill pride among members for the vital work they do.

Our Legal Dept. makes up 6.4 percent of the budget. Your lawyers handle grievance arbitrations, draft proposed legislation and take on important legal battles, such as the fight to protect members from being displaced by workfare. Health and Safety staff inspect job sites, develop educational material and press government to enforce safety regulations.

Other budget areas include Quality of Work Life, Human Resources, printing, mailing, accounting and immigration.

Some 16.5 percent of your dues go to AFSCME, our parent union, which represents us in Washington and organizes public employees nationwide to strengthen us politically. In New York, AFSCME's six councils with 400,000 members work together on a common political agenda to ensure funding for government programs. The remaining one third of dues goes to your local for lobbying and other member services.

So, next time you're scrutinizing the deductions from your paycheck, I hope you will agree with me that your dues represent a good investment. Coupled with the DC 37 Health and Security Plan's independent budget, which is based upon city contributions that the union wins at the bargaining table - your dues fund a range of services that have set the gold standard for unions across the country.


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