“I used to be a firefighter and I left that job because it was extremely stressful, and I’d been doing it for a long time. So, I went into nursing as a nursing assistant since I had experience with being a medic. That job, however, didn’t have any benefits. I got married and now have six kids and two grandkids, so I needed benefits.

“The University of Illinois offered that. I got hired as a building service worker – I take care of the college dorm rooms and keep them clean.

“Nobody ever talked to me about the union. I just knew that there was one and I’d automatically be signed up. When I first started, I asked about it because I had a union at the fire department and on my first day there, they spoke to me about it. I asked around at the new job and they said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re in it. They’ve already taken your dues out.’

“I didn’t actually sign up officially until they had a meeting for a strike that spring. I went to that meeting and signed up there. They voted to strike during spring break and it lasted two days. They got like 2 cents out of it and it was a complete waste of time. All they did was irritate management. I wasn’t very impressed.

“I tried to opt out of the union about a month ago and they told me that I can opt out, but they won’t stop taking my dues out until a specific window of time in December. At that time, I have to write them another letter, during that week, to get out. Otherwise they’ll keep taking my money.

“I think that should be illegal. It’s my money, not theirs.

“My argument is they’re not fulfilling their contract because they’re more focused on politics and political activism than they are on benefits. They’re promoting the socialist movement, which completely undermines us.

“I want no part of this. If the socialist agenda takes over, our retirements are gonna go down the toilet with the stock market. Why would you promote that? That’s not fulfilling their contract to protect my interests as an employee. They violated their contract.

“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There were other issues – for example, during the last strike they repeatedly ignored my concerns about the issue of the rising cost of living. The rising cost of living percentage has gone up faster than our raises have. At the same time, the government is pushing for the minimum wage to go up to $15 an hour and that comes uncomfortably close to what we’re making.

“So, I pressed the issue: they’re bringing the minimum wage up that far, we should probably bump ours up a little bit, too.

“We’ve been ignored [on these issues] while the union focuses on issues like whether we should tuck our T-shirts in. They wanted to argue about minor stuff. They didn’t even bring up the arguments I was talking about.

“They take $25 out of every check. I’m not getting anything for it.

“I’m trying to get my workmates to drop out of the union. You can’t have a union pressing for issues that are going to actually torpedo our futures. That doesn’t make any sense.

“I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but this kind of stuff really gets me fired up because I just don’t understand it.”

Christian Fogal
White Heath, Illinois