Among the many activities and responsibilities that labor unions oversee, accurate record keeping and secure document storage is vital. Not surprisingly, many labor unions are digitizing physical records to increase the efficiency and reliability of their system.
Background on Unions in the United States
The National Labor Union was formed in 1886 and was intended to be a general nationwide union available to all groups of worker. This union never really obtained traction and dissolved. However, soon after, the Knights of Labor emerged in 1889. The postal workers also formed a union in 1889 and grew quickly.
Perhaps the most significant milestone in US labor union history was the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act which gave workers a legal right to form a union without reprisal. Shortly after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was formed to monitor and police union-management relationships. Today’s union laws do not apply to government workers.
Union membership peaked in the 1980s with over 17.7 million workers organized in 1983. Today there are just over 14 million union workers. The mix of private sector and public sector unions has seen the most dramatic changes. In 2013, 35% of government employees were part of a union, where as only 6.7% of the private sector was unionized.
Much of the private sector decline is due to the decrease in US manufacturing jobs since the 1980’s.
Record Keeping for Unions
It is vital that unions create, maintain and preserve accurate records. This is important for two2 reasons:
First: All Unions are required by law to maintain and preserve certain records. These records include
Credit card statements and itemized receipts for each credit card charge
Member ledger cards for former members
Union copies of bank deposit slips
Bank debit and credit memos
Vouchers for union expenditures
Internal union financial reports and statements
Minutes of all membership and executive board meetings
Accountants’ working papers used to prepare financial statements and reports filed with OLMS
Fixed assets inventory
Second: In order to adequately represent, bargain for and advocated for its members, adequate records must be maintained; such membership records may include:
Start date and termination date
Date of birth
History of grievances
History of disciplines and fines
History of contributions
Many unions keep a lot more records then those just mentioned. Unions that have been around awhile probably have most of their records on microfilm or aperture cards along with some paper documentation. Major unions often have millions of records to store. Managing and preserving these documents can be time consuming and burdensome.
Scanning and digitizing these records makes a lot of sense. The return on investment for digitizing physical records is usually pretty attractive as the cost of scanning with the automated equipment available is relatively low, and the efficiency and reliability gained is significant. Microfacs has recently been awarded a contract for a major union representing employees on the west coast. There are over 100 million records to scan with indexing required for easy of search.