Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Professor Puts Different Spin on Union Dues

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Professor Puts Different Spin on Union Dues

Article excerpt

If you're a teacher or truck driver, carpenter or cop, airline attendant or autoworker, baker or bricklayer, you probably pay union dues.

They may be weekly or monthly; they may vary according to your wages and hours or be a fixed rate.

They might be as low as $10 or as steep as $80 a month.

However often and deeply they cut, chances are you complain from time to time, wondering whether it's a rip-off or a waste. Couldn't you put that $8.50 in weekly dues to much better use than does your union?

Well, a suggestion to the contrary comes from a rather unlikely source: A professor of management and industrial relations at Washington University's John M. Olin School of Business.

Raymond L. Hilgert's 60-page study of unionized workers and their dues analyzes the 1992 financial reports unions filed with the Labor Department.

He's submitted the study, which compares 1976-92 dues, inflation and other data, for presentation at the March 1994 meeting of the Midwest Business Administration Association in Chicago.

Hilgert, a 30-year Wash U. veteran from Kirkwood, examined 315 local unions. He found that members of unions with a fixed dues format paid an average of $270 a year, or about $22 a month.

From 1976 to last year, he said, per capita fixed dues rose 131 percent, while the consumer price index increased by 146 percent. Average earnings of manufacturing workers increased by 126 percent - to $469.45 a week from $207.60.

He concluded "union dues in the last 15 years have increased in parallel fashion with prices and wages."

This suggests, he said, that for the region's 250,000 union members and the 16 million nationwide, "The stereotype that most unions have required their members over the years to pay unfair, excessive or unwarranted dues would not appear to be justified by the data of this study."

Hilgert added that federal figures show union members earn about $5 more in hourly wages and benefits than others. That translates into $200 a week - or some $30 for each dollar paid in union dues, he said.

St. Louis Teamster leader John Metz now has a key job with the 1.4-million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, adding to the area's stature in the "New Teamsters" that President Ron Carey is assembling after winning the IBT's first open election in its 90 years. …

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