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Joni Keiner’s Paycut Highlights the Benefits of Unions.

The Star Tribune reports that Champlin police officer Joni Keiner had to take a pay cut of more than $5,500, reduction in hours, and use her sick leave and vacation time while she was pregnant. Her pay rate went from $32 to about $20 per hour during that time because it was not a police union job. Police Chief David Schwarze claimed that was the only light duty assignment available, meaning Keiner’s pay was reduced to the top level for a community service officer.

It is clear here that unions raise wages, especially for women. Union women earn 32 percent more than nonunion women, according to the AFL-CIO. They are also 19 percent more likely to have health insurance benefits and 25 percent more likely to have an employer-provided pension.

Because light duty is a completely discretionary policy only to be offered when available, Keiner’s union did not have a solid basis to file a labor grievance. While most larger police departments have good policies for pregnant officers, it seems some do not.

At some departments, though, "If a guy is hurt playing softball, he gets light duty. But if a woman gets pregnant, they want them to use sick leave or vacation or comp time," said Masson, director of the law enforcement program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

There isn’t a standard practice for these situations, Rosemary Mengelkoch told the Star Tribune. "You are kind of at the mercy of having an ethical department willing to work with you on it." She is a former Champlin police officer who, like Keiner, had to deal with how to balance her pregnancy and her work.

Unions are necessary and beneficial to our society. No one knows this better than Joni Keiner, who experienced the $12 differential between union and nonunion jobs at the Champlin police department. Support the Employee Free Choice Act so that we have the freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. Sign the petition to support majority signup here.


Photo Credit: City of Champlin

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