As their members take cuts to pay and work days, some Stanislaus County public employee unions are lowering monthly dues.
Modesto City Schools teachers' salaries dropped about 2.6 percent this school year, so their union lowered local dues by 4 percent, to $286 a year for full-time employees. Other dues set by the state and national unions remained the same or increased, and add up to $783 a year for full-timers.
"We're actually doing more business; we have teacher layoffs so we're doing more grievances," said Barney Hale, executive director of the Modesto Teachers Association, which has 1,700 members.
Since layoffs have reduced the number of people paying dues, it's hard for union officials to reduce the rates and maintain services, they said.
The Modesto City Firefighters Association has lost nearly 20 percent of its members to staffing reductions, said Cecil Ridge, union president.
"I may have less members, but the fees (our) lawyer charges are staying the same," he said.
Though firefighters are taking unpaid furloughs and have delayed raises, members have not discussed reducing dues, Ridge said. He added he would consider reductions if members asked.
The Modesto Police Officers Association waived dues last spring when members were taking furloughs.
"The executive board asked how we could help our organization deal with the stress of losing those additional hours," MPOA President Tony Arguelles said.
To cover the decrease in local dues, MTA's Hale said the office has trimmed 10 percent from expenses, including stipends to board members, Hale's pay and the travel budget.
Sylvan Union School District teachers' local dues are based on a percentage of their income. Sylvan Educators Association President Chris Ag- uilar said dues held steady this year and the union cut its budget by 10 percent.
"We don't increase local dues because we want to help out our local members," Aguilar said. "That's why we like basing it on a percentage — if their salary goes down, so do their dues."
Most public employee union members are automatically enrolled in their unions and pay dues — they don't have the choice to sign up or not. That irks many members, who also pay higher dues to state and national chapters.
Modesto City School District classified employees — bus drivers, secretaries, custodians and support staff — pay $20 a year for local dues but as much as $370 for their state bargaining group.
MTA dues to the state and national unions make up 73 percent of all dues paid by full-time teachers. Hale said the state and national portions help pay for member benefits — such as lobbying, professional and personal legal services, auto and life insurance policies and discounts, and death benefits.