Council 75 Adopts Progressive Minimum Dues
by Don Loving, AFSCME Council 75 Public Affairs Director
Citing the need to both make union dues more fair and to
relieve the monthly burden for lower-wage workers, delegates at the biennial
Oregon AFSCME Convention in Bend
April 13-15 overwhelmingly adopted a new methodology for collecting Council 75 minimum dues. The
proposal goes into effect Jan. 1, 2008.
Referred to as either “progressive dues” or “percentage
dues,” the method is simple: union members will pay a set percentage of their
monthly salary in dues, rather than a flat amount for Council 75’s minimum dues.
How will that impact you? It depends on your income.
First, the dues are
calculated only on base salary. Shift differential, overtime and such will not
increase your dues. Second, there is both a minimum “floor” and a maximum
“cap.” The lowest-paid members will pay $15 in dues. The high-end cap is $55 in
2008, $60 in 2009 and $65 in 2010. After that, any future increase would be
tied to regional inflation rates.
Following months of study by an AFSCME International economist,
the adopted dues rate is 1.27 percent. In the broadest possible sense, the
average Oregon AFSCME member earns about $40,000 per year. The closer you are
to that figure, the less your dues will change. If you make more than $40,000 –
which is not an exact figure – you’ll be paying more in Council 75 minimum dues.
If you make less, your Council minimum dues will go down.
Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen made several key
points to convention delegates.
• The change to collecting the Council 75 minimum using as progressive dues methodology is not a financial
windfall to Council 75. While it is true that the Council will be collecting
somewhat more money early on, that is offset by “net losses” in future years.
(See point 2 below.)
• The 1.27 percent figure should be good for a minimum of
6-7 years. Union leaders did not want to adopt a rate that would need to be
changed (increased) constantly. Factoring inflation and such, the 1.27 figure
should keep the Council on sound-but-equivalent footing for the immediate
future. But that model includes collecting somewhat more in years one through
three and banking it to offset an overall budget loss in the latter years of
• Once adopted, your dues won’t increase in the future
unless you get a pay raise. For example, state employees recently went through
a two-year cycle that included a pay freeze, yet their dues increased somewhat
due to the small annual national union inflation adjustment. That won’t happen
in the future.
• Related to point 3 above, the 1.27 percent figure is
enough that the Council will “swallow” those annual national union adjustments,
so your dues will no longer be impacted by those circumstances.
• All of the “extras” currently tacked on to the Council 75
minimum dues rate — the Ballot Measure Fund, Travel Fund, Building Fund, Strike
Fund, etc. — are incorporated within the 1.27 percent figure.
• Many local unions, such as Local 328, collect the Council
75 minimum dues plus a flat dollar rate extra. The flat dollar amount over the
Council minimum funds most of the Local’s general fund and contract defense
fund. The remainder is funded by a portion of the Council 75 minimum dues. Local
328 will continue to collect the flat dollar amount in addition to the progressive Council 75 minimum dues,
The leadership of Local 328 supports the restructuring of
the Council 75 minimum dues, as did the Local’s convention delegates.
The dues proposal was much debated and dozens of questions
were asked and answered. Many delegates were immediately in favor of the
proposal because it’s better based on ability to pay. Unions have traditionally
lobbied for progressive tax structures from governments; it’s logical to use
the same structure for dues collection. Other proponents noted that lower dues
for lower wage workers will be a good incentive for organizing new members and
growing the union overall.
Many other delegates who were initially against the change
were swayed by the argument that union contract pay increases almost always are
percentage-based. If you get a 3 percent wage increase, it means more to your
bottom line the larger your salary is. No one who initially argued against
moving to percentage dues was correspondingly willing to change wage increases
to a flat rate amount for all employees.
Finally, there is an incentive for making the switch to
percentage dues sooner rather than later. Delegates at the 2006 AFSCME
International Convention passed a resolution mandating a switch to percentage
dues for all AFSCME members nationwide by 2011. Any Councils that haven’t made
the switch by then will be assessed at a rate of 2 percent.