Give Me Back My Five Bucks

The pros and cons of being in a union

BF and I often talk about unions and how effective they are. He is part of a union for a very large national company, and loves it. Meanwhile I’ve worked in a union environment on 3 separate occasions (provincial government x2, municipal government), and left all 3 times. Plus, with everything going on with the BCTF strike here in BC, I think the pros and cons of unions are on everybody’s minds these days.

Now, I completely understand the benefits of being in a union. Unions are put in place to protect workers, give them fair wages, and make the workplace safer. But having worked for companies whose non-union employees complain that unions can be detrimental to growth, and having seen so many people abuse the benefits of being in a union, I have to wonder… as an employee, over the lifetime of your career, is being in a union beneficial? Will you earn more, will your career progress, and will you be happier? Or perhaps it depends on the type of work you’re doing.

The pros of being in a union:

  • Health benefits. Most (if not all?) unionized workers are entitled to extended health and medical benefits. This is a huge bonus. Especially if you or anyone in your family has major health issues. Not only are you potentially covered for hundreds of thousands of dollars over your career, but you’re also protected by the union in that your job seems more secure if you have to take extended leaves due to illness.
  • You have job security. When you aren’t part of a union, you can be fired for no reason (I’m reminded of when I was unfairly fired a few years ago). But when you’re part of a union, it’s pretty hard to get fired. It has to be pretty serious, and even then, you can still file a grievance.
  • You can speak up. You don’t have to be scared to speak your mind or stir the pot if you think something is unfair. The union is supposed to be there for advice, and for support.
  • Seniority. Of course this differs between different unions, but for the most part, seniority can be a factor in determining who gets a promotion, or even who gets to keep their jobs if there are layoffs. When a union is involved, employers are usually required to let go of the most junior employees. This is supposed to eliminate favoritism in the workplace.

The cons of being in a union:

  • People know how to abuse the system. There is so much abuse, because people know all the loopholes and know they can’t really be fired unless they do something completely inappropriate. I know someone who spent most of her time at work doing personal tasks (like printing cookbooks off the internet, or reading celebrity gossip websites). I know someone else who requested vacation days, got denied, and just didn’t show up for those days anyway. Neither of them got fired, or even disciplined.
  • It rewards employees that might not deserve to be rewarded. Even if you put in minimal effort, it’s nearly impossible to get fired. You get your pay grade steps regardless of how hard you work. I found this demoralizing and it made me want to put in less effort, since 1) I would get a raise regardless of how hard I worked, and 2) the person next to me did nothing most days, and still got paid more than me for the same job.
  • It can hold you back. Because seniority plays such a huge role in unionized environments, sometimes the best person for the job gets passed over because they don’t have enough seniority. So I feel like unions can stunt a good employee’s professional growth. Although, I’m only talking about my experience in an office environment. I’m not sure if that’s the case in every organization.

Anyway, those are my big picture thoughts about unions. I can completely understand both sides, and how unions can benefit or stunt an employee. Obviously since I’m choosing to work for non-union organizations, I’m making my choice. But I’m specifically coming from a government background, and I have flip flopped before – and recently. I know plenty of people who work in union environments and love it. So I’m left continuing to wonder about whether the pros outweigh the cons.

Do you work in a union? Do you find unions beneficial?

Heading to the Oregon Coast!

oregoncoast

oregoncoastI mentioned briefly in my post about postponing big travel plans that we are headed to the Oregon Coast on Friday. :) I’m really excited for this trip because work has been pretty busy, and I feel like it’s been forever since the last vacation. But, since everything is a bit up in the air with expenses this year and how much I can really expect to make with scaled back freelancing and my new job, I thought it would be a good idea to map out the expenses.

Here is an estimate of what I think my portion of the spending will be for the 5 days we’ll be gone:

Hotel – $205 (4 nights)
Food – $200
Entertainment – $150
Gas – $80
Miscellaneous – $50

ESTIMATED TOTAL: $685

A short, but sweet trip. And the cost isn’t too bad. I mean, it definitely could have been cheaper if we wanted to spend less on accommodation. None of the places we are staying at are fancy, but they’re all right on the beach, so that means the prices fall about mid-range at about $100/night. The estimated gas cost I got from plugging our mileage into the trip planner on GasBuddy.com, so I think it will be pretty accurate.

Based on the way we’ve traveled in the past, we’re both pretty good at eating simply. We are going to bring a cooler for veggies (bringing the juicer along), as well as food for lunches, etc. I do anticipate going out to eat for dinners, and I think our only splurge meal will be when we go out with my friends.

As for entertainment, we plan on hanging out in Oregon Dunes National Park (and renting dune buggies!), as well as checking out the Tillamook Cheese Factory. :)  Other than that, it’ll just be spending time at the beach, and relaxing.

The countdown is on. Now, my fingers are crossed the rain holds off and we get a bit of sunshine on our trip. :)

P.S. Has anyone gone to Sea Lion Caves before? Is it worth it? I’m having a hard time convicing BF that it’s worthy of a stop on our trip.

A fitness update

Fitness is a big part of my life, but I haven’t been blogging about it recently, so now that I think I’m fully (?) recovered from the foot injury I suffered last fall, I thought I’d take a few minutes and write about how everything is going. :)

Running
This has taken me the most time to get back into it, but it’s been going fairly well considering I haven’t really run since January. I’m comfortably running 10-12km right now at a 5’35” pace, which I’m happy with, but I still have a long way to go. I remember a few weeks ago, I decided to go hard for a short 3km run. I thought I was sprinting – for sure close to a 10km race pace (about 5’00” km) – but in reality? I was running 5’20” kms. Yikes.

My best half marathon time was 1:53:51, and I’m hoping to race in under 1:50:00 in October. That’s going to require some dedication this summer for sure.

I’d like to stick with the half marathon distance, because the thought of doing 10km races gives me such anxiety. For some reason, I see 10km races as an all-out sprint. They are not particularily enjoyable because there’s no room for error – if you have a bad few minutes, you’re done. There’s almost no coming back from that. My best time is 49:59, and I really struggled to cross that finish line. I’m not sure my body could run any faster than that, but I’d sure like to run a sub-49 this year. :)

Right now, the only races I’m considering are the Vancouver Eastside 10km, Victoria GoodLife Half Marathon, and the Vancouver Historic Half Marathon. I think that’s enough to keep me motivated.

Field Hockey
Try-outs are coming up again for the fall season, so I’m hoping that I’ll be placed on the same team as last year. My mom keeps telling me that I’m getting too old to play field hockey, and that I’d better quit before my body quits for me. :) I do sometimes worry that my back will cause me problems, since that’s the reason my mom quit playing. But for now, my back feels fine. I know I can’t keep playing at this level forever, but I know I have at least a few good years in me. So I’ll keep going until I can feel myself slipping, and then I’ll reevaluate. But I’m thinking I have at least 2 seasons to go.

Tennis
Well, I’m not very good. My forehands are weaker than my backhands, if that gives you any indication of my progress. :) I know I should be practicing in-between lessons, so I’m going to try to do that during the next few weeks. I think I’m lucky because I have good footwork and agility (thanks to a lifetime of field hockey), as well as stamina (thanks to running). All I need to learn is how to, you know, hit the ball.

The past few months I’ve made a real effort to eat healthier and exercise more in an effort to lose a couple of pounds. I started out at 135 lbs back in April, and am now down to 127. It’s been a slow process, but I feel like I’m doing this in a healthy, sustainable way. :) It also really helps that BF is on board with healthy eating, and he’s trying to exercise every day as well. My goal is to settle in at around 125 lbs.

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