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Ask Sparky

January 16, 2013

Dear Sparky: In our chapter we have some folks who are “agency fee” members. I’ve never understood what that means—Can you explain?

-Confused in Central Mass.

Dear Confused**:** Allow me to dig into my handy bag of analogies and see if I can find an apt one for you. Ah yes. Have you ever been to a party where everyone brings a little something for the host—a six pack of beer, or maybe one of those bread bowls stuffed with spinach dip? You’ve probably noticed that there is always one guy who shows up with nothing but then proceeds to consume everything in sight. Let’s call him Mr. Agency Fee. Do you see where I’m going?

Let me break it down for you. Your membership in a union comes with all sorts of benefits, including a contract that guarantees you rights and protections. And as they say, nothing worth having is free. Your union dues pay for a strong and effective union, including staff to help negotiate contracts and attorneys to defend your rights. Agency fee members, on the other hand, get the rights and protections of union membership but don’t pay to support those rights and protections. In other words, they are like the guy at the party who comes empty-handed and eats the whole spiral ham. Too many guests like him, and there would be no party.

By the way, as a dues-paying member of Local 888, you’re entitled to some other important benefits that agency fee payers don’t have. You may: Run for office and vote in SEIU Local 888 elections and chapter elections; Attend and participate in membership meetings; Serve on the negotiating committee for new contracts and Participate in union-sponsored trainings

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