It takes resources to have a strong union, from the earliest stages of forming a union for the first time, to bargaining and campaigning for the first contract, to enforcing rights under an existing contract, and advocating on policy issues that matter to membership. Dues provide those resources. See below for more information.
Dues generally cover all of the day to day cost of having a strong union, including paying for the best legal representation, staffing, rent, equipment, and supplies.
Most of the day-to-day work enforcing the contract and representing our membership is provided by the Local Union. The Local Union automatically keeps 27% of dues money to support its expenses: staffing for representation, rent, equipment, supplies, etc. The rest of the dues is allocated to the International Union’s General Fund (26%), Strike and Defense Fund (44%), and Community Action Program (CAP) (3%). Columbia postdocs would be supported by these funds as described below. Depending on the overall financial health of the Strike and Defense Fund (if its net worth is $500M or greater), an additional allocation of dues called a “rebate” is given back to the Local and International Union. So, in typical months, the portion of dues retained by the local union is roughly 37%.
For a great example of local union work helping workers defend their rights, see this summary of successful grievance handling at the University of Washington, or this story about how the union at UConn has helped graduate assistants take on sexual harassment.
The portion of dues allocated to the International Union would support Columbia postdoctoral researchers in the following ways:
- Technical experts to help negotiate on equal terms with Columbia:
- Health insurance experts who can take on the University’s consultants in order to pursue the best benefits for the best price
- Researchers who can help analyze University finances.
- Legal advice where necessary
- Experienced negotiators to help achieve our goals, both at the bargaining table and in terms of developing an overall campaign to win a strong contract
- Support for new organizing campaigns (for example, the resources supporting Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW come from existing UAW members’ dues money)
- Political action: 3 percent of dues money goes toward the UAW Community Action Program (CAP), which supports progressive community and political action, including legislative and other policy advocacy on issues that matter to UAW members – for example, the UAW advocates strongly for fair, comprehensive immigration reform and expanded federal support for research funding, among other topics. [NOTE: legally, dues money cannot be used for federal campaign contributions, such as the presidential race—that money comes from members’ voluntary contributions separate from, and in addition to, dues.]