The Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees’
Guide to Union Membership
Know Your Union…
…Know Your Rights
Support your Union…
…Support the Fight to Protect Those Rights
We are Suffolk AME and Suffolk County Works Because We Do!
What is a Union?
A union is an organized group of workers who join together, unite, to make joint decisions regarding the conditions of their employment; it is a group of people working together to improve their lives through collective bargaining. Once formed, the union acts as an intermediary between the members it represents and the organization that employs them. The primary agenda of any union is to negotiate with management for more favorable working conditions and benefits through collective bargaining.
Unions like the Association of Municipal Employees were created by the workers and for the workers to negotiate better terms and conditions of employment, to uphold these contractual terms, and to ensure that employees are adequately represented during disciplinary proceedings.
As AME is a wholly independent union, you can feel even better about your representation and should take a sense of pride in belonging to the collective. There is no “outside” organization attempting to position themselves between you and your employer or attempting to prioritize any agenda other than our own, which is to secure the best terms of employment for Suffolk County employees. Like you, your union leadership works in County titles; they live here in Suffolk County and also struggle to make ends meet; and they have agreed to dedicate themselves to work toward a better future for us all by building a stronger AME.
Having a union like AME ensures that we have the ability to collectively negotiate with management over any and all issues affecting our employment with the County, including wages, benefits, and working conditions. The contract we win is a legal and binding document and we ensure our contract gets honored.
The Union Difference – What do Strong Unions Provide their Members?
Much of what we take for granted as standard terms of employment were in actuality hard fought for benefits won through union efforts. The Labor Movement played a pivotal role in improving the quality of life and raising the standard of living for all Americans. Accomplishments of unions and the Labor Movement include:
⦁ Social Security Benefits
⦁ 8-hour Work Days and the 40-Hour Work Week
⦁ Overtime Pay
⦁ Paid Family Leave
⦁ Paid Sick Days
⦁ The Americans with Disabilities Act
⦁ The Occupational Safety and Health Act
While unions have raised the standard of living for all Americans, union members still enjoy benefits that are far superior to what their non-union member counterparts receive:
The difference is in the paycheck. Union members see about 20% - 30% higher wages (before accounting for their improved benefits) than their non-unionized counterparts. In straight dollar terms, unionized workers earn approximately $200 more than their non-union counterparts every pay check. Moreover, as union members, you are more likely to receive consistent pay raises at regular intervals as compared with non-represented workers.
Union workers are more likely to have benefits like health care, retirement accounts or defined pension plans, and paid vacation and sick leave.
92% of union workers have job-related health care coverage as opposed to only 68% of non-union workers.
76% of union workers have a defined pension plan as compared with 16% of non-unionized workers with defined pension plans.
83% of union members have paid sick leave; only 62% of people without a union have this benefit.
As a union member, you are protected from unjust dismissal through our collective bargaining agreement. You cannot be fired without just cause, unlike non-union workers who often are “at-will” employees who can be let go at any time for almost any reason.
Moreover, union members, under the Weingarten Rights, are guaranteed the right to union representation during any conversation that can lead to discipline, termination, or would otherwise affect individual working conditions. This union representative not only helps balance the power, but you know he or she is working for you and your interests. Non-union employees, on the other hand, have to deal with human resource departments staffed by company representatives.
The AME Difference – What is YOUR Union Providing its Members?
While we should understand the “Union Difference” and the integral role the Labor Movement, of which AME is a proud part, has played in securing benefits and workplace standards for all working people, it’s important we remember all AME has won directly for its members.
Remember, none of these benefits or protections were given to us by management. No benevolent employer or kind-hearted politician ever elected to see our plight and improve our working conditions on their own volition. No, your union, you, your fellow members, and those who came before us fought hard to win and negotiate each and every benefit, protection, and right we have today. These include:
⦁ Access to the EMHP Health Plan
⦁ Anti-Discrimination Protections
⦁ Bereavement Days
⦁ Collective Bargaining Rights
⦁ Competitive and Fair Salaries with Guaranteed Step Raises
⦁ Conference Attendance Funds
⦁ Defined Pension Plans
⦁ Defined Workloads
⦁ Defined Work Day and Work Year
⦁ Dental and Vision Benefits
⦁ Due Process – Representation During Disciplinary Meetings and Investigations
⦁ Family Sick Days
⦁ Financial and Retirement Planning
⦁ Health and Safety Provisions
⦁ Legal Benefits
⦁ Longevity Payments
⦁ Maternity Benefits
⦁ Paid Vacation and Holidays
⦁ Personal Days
⦁ Prescription Drug Co-Pay Reimbursement
⦁ Retirement Benefits including Health Insurance
⦁ Secured Taylor Law Amendments to Protect Your Rights to Bargain Collectively
⦁ Seniority Rights
⦁ Sick Days
⦁ Sick Day Bank
⦁ Sick Day Payouts
⦁ Tuition Reimbursement
What Makes a Union Strong?
The primary source of strength of any union is its membership. In fact, it is a founding tenet of the Labor Movement: we are stronger together than we can ever be alone. The best way to hold influence over our employers is to show them—and those they rely on—that we can rally hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the causes and issues that are important to us and that, in addition to our ability to mobilize, we also have the resources needed to bring our message to the forefront of public attention.
As a union, we are only as strong as our membership is engaged. If we want to be as strong as we can be, as influential as we can be, and as powerful as we can be, then we must each get involved and join the fight through union activism. Attend Unit and General Meetings. Sign up for that committee. Wear your union colors to work with pride. Stand shoulder to shoulder with your AME brothers and sisters at our next rally—at every rally.
Each member has a choice: we can sit around and complain about what we don’t have, about what we haven’t been given, or we can stand up to make a difference. Complaining is easy but ineffective. If we want results, we all need to take action and raise our collective voice until it is a fevered howl that cannot be ignored.
Getting involved is not only effective, but it is also as easy as staying informed. With bi-weekly e-newsletters, our quarterly Voice publication, and our presence online through our union webpage and social media accounts, your AME leadership strives to keep its membership as informed and as engaged as possible. Learn what’s going on and spread the word.
The stronger our union, the more leverage we wield at the negotiation table. And we need you to keep us strong.
What Can You Do to Keep AME Strong?
By now, you know that the most important thing you can do to keep your union strong is to get involved and stay involved. Review the below checklist to ensure you’re contributing to the strength of your union—that you’re helping make it the union worthy of your membership:
A Good Union Member Strives To:
⦁ Learn about union rights and benefits.
⦁ Speak up when the employer violates the contract.
⦁ Attend union meetings and ask questions to help shape union policies.
⦁ Stand up for co-workers and fellow members in disputes with management.
⦁ Help with rallies, pickets, community outreach efforts, and other activities that build union power and influence.
⦁ Respect your fellow workers regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. These are your union brothers and sisters.
⦁ Read union publications and notices.
⦁ Support political candidates who back Labor’s agenda.
⦁ Heed the call when sister unions seek solidarity.
⦁ Work safely and do your share to help keep others safe as well.