What do unions mean to you? Probably not much if you have a job that pays a fair wage, provides healthcare and benefits, and treats its employees ethically, with appropriate pay for hours or days worked. Unfortunately there are many occupations that are filled by our middle class citizens that seldom offer such working conditions. Colorado is a Right to Work state, which really means that employers have full employment rights, and employees seem to have few.
According to a recent list of Ten Best employment occupations, Dental Hygienist was number one. But a highly experienced and dedicated hygienist in Colorado is hard pressed to find a job, let alone find one with the benefits just described. There is no mutually recognized, central employment representative to bring the employer and potential hygienist together. So what would a Union mean to them?
In addition to Colorado licensing requirements, a Union would require specific experience where a Hygienist would be designated similar to a journeyman, apprentice, or trainee, thus the employer would be confident in hiring the specific level needed. If one was a member of a Dental Hygiene union and out of work, one would register with the union; employers would interview and select from an established list provided by the Union Office. As a senior member, one would be at the top with other comparable hygienists who register for work, with the usual order being according to seniority. When ones name came to the top of the list one would be called for a job interview and the employer would have to hire from the people who were referred by the union (probably 4 or 5) rather than from Craig’s List. The pay rate would be according to a prior negotiated Union Agreement. Union members would enjoy benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacations.
If one was terminated for any reason, such would be according to an established Union agreement protocol. If the employee considers the termination not according to the Union Agreement, the Union Representatives would investigate and represent that member’s rights. If the employer neglects to maintain a safe work environment, requires unpaid over-time, no lunch break, no 15 minute break, or condones an environment of demeaning behavior, the Union would investigate that practice, require corrections. The employee would not be subjected to reprisal by the employer.
A Union provides a powerful means by which middle class workers can be sure their work rights are protected and that they are treated fairly by individual employers or Corporations. That is why many Powerful Corporations now want to destroy all the unions rather than negotiate agreements. So while certain government unions may not seem important to middle class workers in the private sector, to destroy any union is to weaken ALL of them. Once the unions are all destroyed we could have a society of virtual slaves, and anyone who can’t see that has not lived and remembered the Great Depression of the 1930’s.