“Rutgers can count,” said AFT national representative Richelle Fiore at bargaining team training Sat. Feb. 8. Before going into bargaining, management evaluates the union’s strength by comparing the number of full dues paying members with the number of unsigned fee payers in the bargaining unit. The team’s ability to bargain a good contract, including raises and job protection, is heavily dependent upon membership support, she said .
According to New Brunswick Campus Vice President Ginny Caputo from Anthropology, some potential members have not joined because they see the representation fees (85% of full dues) coming out of their paychecks labelled as “AFT Dues” and mistakenly believe they are automatically full members of the union. In Caputo’s organizing role, she leads efforts to make sure everyone in the unit is personally asked to join the union. “Some people have not joined because they have not been asked. We try to talk with everyone the unit about the union so they understand how important it is to strengthen our collective professional voice,” she said.
For the average member earning a $50,000 base salary, joining the union as a full member costs about $1.50 a week, and brings important benefits, said Executive Vice President Darlene Smith. Discounts on consumer purchases, union scholarships and automatic insurance benefits are worth more than the cost of membership. Smith often includes information on such benefits on the local’s web site www.ura-aft.org and email newsletter. More detailed information about national AFT + member benefits is available at www.aft.org/benefits. “But the most important benefit is a strong contract, and the right to shape and ratify your union contract” said Smith.
Membership applications are available through your local steward, by calling the union office at 732–745-0300 or responding to this email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your best mailing address (campus or home). “Please join the union now and ask any co-workers who have not yet joined to do so as well,” said Caputo. “Joining is beneficial to us as individuals and critical for us collectively at Rutgers.”