Karena Cozad

Karena Cozad

“I’m a personal assistant for my nephew with cerebral palsy. I do cooking, cleaning, personal care, calling in medication, getting medication and stuff like that.

“In the beginning, I got qualified for the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services [DORS]. Probably 16 years ago, I opted into the union at a meeting and dues started getting taken out automatically after.

“They really pressure us to join the union at these [DORS] training meetings. The last meeting I went to with my mother who also works for DORS, a man came up to us and somehow he knew who in the room was not paying union dues. I was paying them at that point, but my mother was not.

“At intermission, he came up to us and asked my mother why she wasn’t paying union dues. He said, ‘Do you realize we are fighting for pay raises and for all of you employees?’

“My mom said she didn’t want to and she would have to talk to her husband about it. The man asked where her husband was and she replied that he was going to pick us up later. It was just a lot of pressure and very strange. If someone in that room wasn’t paying, they came up to you.

“They’re very much pushing the union at these meetings. If you want to pay for the union, it should be an option, but not a pressure.

“There’s no benefit to [being in the union.] As far as I’m concerned, union [leaders] seem to be out for themselves. And on the politics side, they push for the Democrats and criticize Republicans.

“I knew you could opt out, but I didn’t know how until I got a letter from the [Illinois Policy Institute]. It came with cards to mail to opt out, so I sent them in and a couple months later I looked and they were still taking out dues from my paycheck.

“I called DORS and they said they were going to have to refer me to somebody else. The next person referred me to the union and the union finally answered. I mentioned [the cards I had sent in] and they said they weren’t legitimate.

“I called IPI and was told they are legitimate and I made another phone call and it ended up taking between 30 and 90 days to opt out.

“I don’t know what we really get from being in the union. I know they say they fight for raises, and maybe they do. But I felt I was paying X amount of dollars that I could use for myself — especially when times are tough for everybody.

“I didn’t feel like I was benefiting from what I had been paying all this time. I could use that $18 from every paycheck for something else.

“If you’re pressuring someone, that’s just not the way to go.”

Karena Cozad
Cuba, Illinois

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