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Member Spotlight: Anonymous Member

An AFFT member, who has asked to remain anonymous, shared his experience with his union with our team. His name has been changed for anonymity. This is his story.  

Marcus is a seasoned power line worker for a city government in Ohio. He comes from a long line of union members – generations of his family have belonged to private sector unions. Marcus saw the benefits that unionization brought to his family in the past, so he joined his workplace union, an AFSCME affiliate, without a second thought. Marcus was a very active union member who wanted to help run the union effectively.  

This is where the problems began for Marcus. He recalls that, “the local union executives weren’t accounting for the money appropriately. Executive expenses just had blanket numbers and no line items.” Marcus asked for line items and wasn’t given any, even though the union’s constitution stated that line items are to be provided for expenses. Since Marcus had tried to increase transparency and hold union leadership accountable, he now had a target on his back. 

This was just one of many occasions where Marcus felt the union had acted inappropriately. During contract negotiations, the negotiations team refused to share any details about the proposed contract, even with the local union executive board. Marcus was bothered by the ‘official time’ that union leadership would use – still being paid and earning employer-provided benefits while doing union business. Marcus especially took issue with the way that union meetings were run. Often, the union would host membership meetings on site, and management would attend them, snuffing any chance for union members to speak openly about working conditions without fear of retaliation from their employer.  

If these acts weren’t enough, Marcus became increasingly frustrated when he found out that the union had been working in the background to change job titles and pay scales for certain groups of employees, without consulting members. For Marcus, this would’ve meant a demotion and that his salary would be frozen, without the opportunity to earn more money. Marcus had already seen this happen to another group of employees in the bargaining unit and decided that enough was enough. This AFSCME affiliate was not the type of union he had grown up respecting. It was time to take action.  

Marcus tried to leave the union, and the union responded that while he could end his union membership, he’d have to continue to pay fees. Marcus had colleagues that also tried to ‘opt out’ of their union membership and were given the same response. To date, Marcus is no longer a union member and is still, begrudgingly, paying fees to his union.  

While Marcus feels disrespected and unappreciated by his union, he does recognize the value that an accountable and transparent union can provide to its members. He sees ways that his union could improve, perhaps by narrowing the scope of the bargaining unit. “Ohio has a law that requires a union to show a ‘community of interest’ to create a bargaining unit. The current bargaining unit is very large, with employees from all across the city, all with different job titles.” Perhaps, if AFSCME created more specialized bargaining units, they would be able to solicit feedback from members more easily and negotiate better contracts.  

Marcus hopes that he will be able to fully withdraw from the union and stop paying fees soon. He also hopes that if he and others are able to resign their membership, the union will see the error of its ways and start to care more about its members.  

Americans for Fair Treatment

Americans for Fair Treatment is a free, membership, non-profit organization designed to help public sector workers exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of coercion from unions.