Union Threatens to Cancel Health Insurance if Furloughed Workers Don't Cough Up Dues

Miriam Ramos and other members of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union shout early in the morning outside the closing Trump Taj Mahal on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Atlantic City, N.J. The sprawling Boardwalk casino, with its soaring domes, minarets and towers built to mimic the famed Indian palace, shut down at 5:59 a.m., having failed to reach a deal with its union workers to restore health care and pension benefits that were taken away from them in bankruptcy court. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

As millions of people across the country are losing some or all of their income due to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, banks, mortgage companies, utilities, and other companies are offering special programs to help ease financial the pressure.

But union bosses in Los Angeles still need their dough, yo. Unite Here Local 11, a union representing 30,000 hospitality industry workers, is sending its workers text messages pressuring them to continue paying their dues, according to a current member who reported the conduct to the Washington Free Beacon. A text message provided to the outlet reads:

Now is the time to keep your union strong. We need a strong union now, more than ever, to fight for you and all of our members. It is critical for you to keep paying your dues so that we can keep fighting. There are two ways to do it: a) go to unitehere11.org and use PayPal, or b) call [the union offices] at 213-481-8350

(Starting in April, May, and so on) Thank you, if you have any questions let me know or [another staffer] at the number above.”

Union dues, according to the Free Beacon, are between $29 and $71 per month. The member recently lost his hotel job in California due to the statewide shutdown and is in the process of making financial arrangements with creditors. Progressives tout unions as a safety net for blue collar workers, but this member calls their actions “pathetic”:

“It’s kind of pathetic the way they’re doing things.… It sounds to me like all they want is the money, and that’s it. They don’t care about their employees….My phone company told my wife a couple days ago, ‘If you’re not able to pay, we can always make arrangements. We can wait.’ If other companies are doing this, why can’t the union do the same thing?”

It gets worse. While the worker was laid off from the hotel, he was told that “the hotel extended health insurance coverage for workers through September.” When he spoke to a union representative, though, he learned there was some fine print involved in that extension – health coverage is contingent upon continued payment of union dues.

“I said, ‘Medical insurance, how is that gonna work?’ [The representative] goes, ‘Oh well, you’ll be covered until September. Well, as long as you keep paying your union dues,'” the member said.

The worker was one of the lucky few who was actually able to speak to a union representative.

“Coworkers have sent me text messages saying that they couldn’t talk to anybody at the union, that the phone was always busy and nobody was answering. But someone sent them a text message saying they need to pay the union, regardless how,” the member said. “I’m kind of losing hope. Nobody’s doing anything about it.”

Meanwhile, numerous unions representing workers in California’s heavily-impacted entertainment industry are assisting their out-of-work members by suspending or reducing dues and waiving any late fees or other penalties. The International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 has really stepped up, waiving dues for the entire 2nd quarter and “has allocated $500,000 to its Hardship Fund to provide $1,000 grants to members in need who lost their jobs because of the industry’s coronavirus shutdown.”