Charlotte City Workers Win Right to Support Their Unions With Automatic Deductions
January 24, 2013 8:26 am
City workers in right-to-work North Carolina were awarded a small victory on Monday, when the city council voted to give union members the right to support their unions using what’s known as voluntary checkoff. The measure will allow workers to check a box that directs a small portion of their paychecks toward union dues — a much more convenient way to support labor organizations in right-to-work states.
Yesterday’s vote was the result of years of effort on behalf of unions like the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) to lobby for a majority vote in city council. Democratic Council member Beth Pickering spoke to the Charlotte Observer on the motivation for her “yes” vote and the crucial role unions play in preserving public safety:
“This isn’t a lot to ask for these folks,” said Pickering. “Many of these folks put their lives on the line every day.”
The local branch of the progressive United Electrical Workers Union was also part of the push for automatic dues deductions; voluntary checkoff was just one facet of their larger pro-worker platform and city worker organizing drive. From the Observer:
The United Electrical Workers Local 150 has been trying to recruit city workers, particularly those in the sanitation department.
The union has pushed for the automatic deductions as part of a so-called “Worker’s Bill of Rights” it has presented to the city. It held protests before the city council last year and also lobbied for the deductions during the Democratic National Convention in September.
“This means we are in the door,” said James Locklear, a city sanitation worker and United Electrical Workers union member. “Now we can start talking about other issues.”
The city already allows employees to make automatic payroll deductions for some charities such as United Way.
Many unions were disappointed with the Democratic Party’s decision to hold their national convention in right-to-work North Carolina — in fact, Charlotte’s government, like all governments in North Carolina, is forbidden from bargaining collectively with its employees. Monday’s city council vote shows that a coalition of unions are actively pushing a pro-worker platform, with some success. A state or city becoming more friendly towards unions in 2013 is great news.
Image from here.