Unions – A Librarian’s Ethical Dilemma

2013-01-17_08-01-56_106You know the larger-than-life-sized reindeer that dance down Main Street, pulling Santa’s sleigh during the holiday parade at Disneyland? Well, for a very brief time, I was one of those. In fact, I was the first-ever female reindeer. My dimensions and dancing ability (such as it was) fit the Disney specifications. Twice a day throughout the holiday season I danced down Main Street, strapped into an 18-pound reindeer head that extended about 2 feet above my own while zipped into a head-to-toe fir costume.

Getting into that costume on a chilly December evening wasn’t so bad, but waiting in line to get unzipped (the zipper was in the back, you see) after dancing for a mile was an exercise in patience. Speaking of exercise, I remember watching steam rise from each head of the dancing partners who were unzipped before me. I also remember weighing a whopping 5 pounds less after each parade. Great work out!

The downside of this gig was that every employee at Disneyland paid union dues. It mattered not if you were part-time or seasonal. This stunk as bad as the fir suit I wore! I worked REALLY #@%^& hard for that $7 an hour. The union, in my opinion, didn’t have a right to any part of my paycheck, especially since I was part-time AND seasonal!

After leaving Disney due to a back injury, (I mentioned the 18 pound head), I vowed that I would never again pay union dues. Up to this point, I’ve been true to that promise. However, as of this January, I am experiencing an ethical dilemma. I’ve worked for the Anaheim Public Library for decades, always part-time, which kept me off the pension plan (I’ll talk about the PERS trap later) and the union list.

Full-time Anaheim Librarians are unionized, I’m afraid. This was not always the case. The entire library department was absorbed into the City’s Community Services Department several years back. This allowed Anaheim to better control those wacky librarians, I suppose. It also allowed the unions to expand their bargaining power.

During the height of the recent recession, the city made an attempt to dump the library system, i.e., outsource it to the county. The community made a ruckus (God bless ’em). The city relented. In the end, the library had to make drastic cut-backs, eliminating MANY full-time staff. Ironically, the unions that couldn’t defend these positions effectively then, now find that that they have lost a large chunk of their pay-base. In response, the unions have succeeded in recruiting the remaining part-time employees to join (i.e., pay dues).

When I received my ballot in the mail, I voted NO. (In case you didn’t get the message, I am anti-union.) I’m not saying that unions’ role in society up until now has been all bad. However, in this day and age, I believe it’s unjust to allow any government workers to unionize against taxpayers. Plus, in the long run, unions make librarians look bad. We’re public servants, after all. It seems counter-intuitive to say “I’m an advocate for the community” while clinging to a union card that says, “Up to a point.”

So now I’m in a pickle. My long-term plan was to keep my part-time Anaheim Public Librarian job up to and beyond retirement. Thanks to this latest event, I’m must consider resigning. Unions will take my money, claiming they will fight for my rights. (Yeah right. I witnessed what happened to the last batch of librarians they represented.) Instead, unions will spend my dues on political issues that I don’t support. They will hang me out to dry if I don’t affirm their agenda. Even as I write this… from home, on a rare day that I’m not working anywhere, I wonder whose black list I’m making. If I get fired or written up, you’ll be the first to know.

Please advise! Should I quit upon principle? (I DON’T want to belong to a union!!!) Or do I keep a job that I’d planned to keep until death takes me – a job that I love, that I’ve trained for, and that I’m good at?

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Regina,
    I hope you listened to your boss and stayed with the job. I’ve never been in a union shop. However, 2 years ago, I lost a job of 15 years, without cause – no severence. I am convinced it was based on age discrimination. No attorney I spoke with would touch my claim, though. Since then, I have been relegated to temporary jobs commanding about 65% of what I made on that 15-year job, and without benefits for me and my family. I was forced to rely on my retirement savings to stay afloat. Maybe if I’d had union representation pursuant to a decent collective bargaining agreement, it would have been a different story. I get what you say about unions that take your dues money and do nothing for you. But I gotta tell you, if I have to choose between a do-nothing union and the “better nature” of a private sector company (it’s lesser of 2 evils for sure), but the union wins most of the time. From my perspective, “right to work” laws are emblematic of what their supporters tend to complain of in other contexts – that is, the government on the backs of the people. Besides, you can always vote with your feet – that’s something I’ve done a number of times throughout my career.



  2. maryhouseL says:

    I believe some unions provide an option to membership dues whereby you can give to a non profit organization of your choice in lieu of the dues if you object to the union. Check it out.

  3. Regina says:

    I’m still debating the whole union thing. In the meantime, it’s nice to hear that some librarians have had positive experiences with unions. (One of my bosses appreciates me almost as much as I appreciate her!)

  4. orangehoosier says:

    [Disclaimer: I am Regina’s boss, so I may be prejudiced!]

    First, OMG! I had no idea you were once a dancing reindeer! (I am more in awe of you everytime I learn these new facts!) And you are SO good at your job, so I don’t want you to leave.Second, I am also not a union person and swore the same thing, but when I worked for LAPL in the 80s & 90s, I either had to join the Librarian’s Guild (fancy name) or pay shop dues, so I figured I’d get my money’s worth for my dues. The LG held training for promotional interviews, had interesting professionals speak at their meetings, and were very much into professional development, unlike any other unions I have come into contact with during my career. They successfully lobbied for cost of living increases equivalent to other City of LA classifications, and were well-respected for their bargaining prowess. Consequently, I was “spoiled” with a great wage, vacation/leave hours formula, and very disheartened when I moved to Orange County and had to settle for less to pursue my profession. (granted, I could have continued to commute, but the cost in time, gasoline and stress was not worth it) To make a long story short, I get what you’re saying, but I would really, really, hate for you to quit on principal. However, I would respect you even more for doing so. If there is any way to get you to wait until I am able to hire someone to partially fill a fraction of your hard-to-fill shoes with only 1/10 or less your talents, I would greatly appreciate it.

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