Dues Structure


Initiation, monthly and working dues


The entire union relies on membership dues and fees to operate. That means everything from contract negotiation and administration to developing and implementing programs consistent with its constitutional objectives. (See LIUNA Constitution, Article II, Objects.)


There are basically three dues most members will pay. The first is an initiation fee, which most members pay out-right when joining the union, or in short installments after being hired by an employer.


The second is monthly dues, which is a set dollar amount that must be paid for a member to be classified as a member-in-good-standing.


The third type of dues is working dues. Working dues is generally a fixed cents per hours worked payment that is made directly to the union by the employer.


If a member has not paid monthly dues by the last day of the following month to which it is owed, the member is considered suspended by the International Union without notice. Within limits, a suspended member may readmit, but only after appropriate dues and fines are paid in full.


The Local Uniform Union Constitution limits local union income to "amounts that are necessary to accomplish and take care of the obligations and requirements of the local union and the purposes for which the local union was established."


Non-union dues


While it's not often acknowledged, many non-union construction workers also pay "dues" for working non-union. But, unlike union dues that come off the check, non-union dues are simply the difference between union scale and non-union construction wages.


Think about it -- the average union laborer in Wisconsin can expect to earn between 33 to 50 percent more than the average non-union construction laborer.


In lost income alone that's like paying $12,000 - $18,000 a year in non-union dues!


Union Structure


Individual Members


The heart of the union is every individual member. Unions are democratic organizations that take the principles of representative government and apply them to the workplace so that collectively workers have a greater influence over the wages and benefits they receive, the conditions in which they work and their standard of living.


Individually, each member has rights and responsibilities defined and protected by the LIUNA Constitution as well as by state and federal law. As in any democratic organization, members of the Union elect fellow members to represent their interests and to serve as officers responsible for the daily operation of the Union at Local, District Council, Regional and International levels.


The Local Union


The Local Union is the first and most immediate source of service to members. Local unions are responsible for referring members to jobs; protecting laborers' jurisdiction; handling grievances against employers at initial stages; organizing new members; collecting dues; holding monthly meetings; and serving as the primary contact on matters and issues related to membership.


The officers of the Local Union consist of the President, Vice President, Recording Secretary, Secretary-Treasurer, Business Manager, Sergeant-at-Arms, three Auditors and members of the Executive Board.


The Business Manager is the recognized representative of the Local Union and sees that the affairs and business of the Local Union are being properly conducted in accordance with the Constitutions and with the rules, regulations, policies, practices and lawful orders and decisions. 

The Executive Board is composed of seven members, including the President, Recording Secretary, Secretary-Treasurer, Business Manager and, depending on the combination of officers, at least two other members elected by the membership. It is the duty of the Executive Board to see that the affairs and business of the Local Union are being properly conducted, in accordance with the Constitution.


The District Council


The Wisconsin Laborers' District Council functions as a coordinating and governing body to develop and implement programs. The Council also serves to mediate problems as they develop between local unions and facilitate the resolution of jurisdictional or other issues between locals and other building trade unions.


In addition, the District Council negotiates and ratifies, with few exceptions, every laborer agreement in the state. Its negotiating committees, composed of Council delegates, make recommendations on contract language and package increases. 

Each local union is represented at the District Council by delegates, in numbers apportioned by the size of the local. All delegates are elected to the District Council at the local union level by rank-and-file members. 

Officers of the District Council are elected by delegates to the District Council and include the following offices: President, Vice-President, Business Manager, Secretary-Treasurer, Sergeant-at-Arms and Auditor. 

Delegates to the District Council serve as trustees or representatives to various funds and committees. Trustees to the Laborers' health and pension fund, skill improvement fund, and LECET, as well as members of standing committees, such as political action, job targeting and negotiating committees for statewide agreements, are all composed of district council delegates. 

The Wisconsin Laborers' District Council also publishes a quarterly newsletter in an effort to keep members informed about various programs and issues of concern to Laborers' and their families.


Regional Office


The next level in the structure is the Regional Office. There are 10 Regional Offices in the United States, and 2 sub-regional offices in Canada.


Regional Offices have a geographic jurisdiction. Wisconsin is a part of the Great Lakes Region, which includes the District Councils of Chicago, Michigan, and Minnesota-North Dakota. Regional Offices carry out the policies of the International Union, as well as provide direct services to the District Councils, Local Unions and individual members. Regional Managers, appointed by the General Executive Board are responsible for the daily operation of Regional Offices and serve under the supervision of the General President.


(For more on the General Executive Board, see Article VIII of the LIUNA Constitution. For more on the duties and responsibilities of LIUNA officers, see Articles IV - XI of the LIUNA Constitution.)  


The International


At the International Union level, decisions are made by the General Executive Board, which is composed of the General President, the Secretary Treasurer and 14 International Vice-Presidents.


Every 5 years the International holds a convention to set policies and to nominate candidates for the General Executive Board. Delegates to this convention are elected from all LIUNA local union affiliates and District Councils. 

Every member in good standing votes for the General President, General Secretary-Treasurer and 4 at-large Vice-Presidents. Nine Regional Vice-Presidents are also elected by the vote of rank-and-file members from each of the respected regions. One vice-president serves on the General Executive Board by virtue of his elected position as president of the mail Handlers Union. 

LIUNA headquarters in Washington D.C. is the source of a variety of support and service to our members. At headquarters there are Departments and staff who work daily to service the membership by responding to the demands and issues of a changing construction industry, monitoring members' basic health, welfare and pension benefits, defending our position in the legal arena, voicing concerns to lawmakers on issues important to construction workers and our families, and organizing new members. 

The International assigns a representative to assist local unions and District Councils on matters that affect and/or impact International policies or decisions. 

The International also publishes The Laborer, a magazine highlighting the accomplishments, activities and life stories of rank-and-file members and affiliated unions across the United States and Canada.




What do I do when I'm laid-off?

If you are laid-off from work for any reason and are a member in good standing, you are considered eligible for work through the job referral system of the local union and do not have to engage in customary work search procedures required by the State Unemployment Compensation Department as a condition for receiving Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits.


When you sign up for UC, simply state your affiliation with your local union and that you are on the union's out-of-work referral list, in order to satisfy the job search provision of the Wisconsin UC law.


Of course, to be put on the out-of-work list, you must first notify your local union that you are out of work. To qualify as a member-in-good-standing, you must also be current in the payment of your dues.


How do I get on the out-of-work list?

Getting on the out-of-work list is easy. When you get laid-off, call the local union. Tell the local that you are out of work and want to be placed on the out-of-work list.


How does the referral system work?

The Local cannot discriminate on referrals. The Local must refer out members based on the time and date of the call, or notification. The referral list is essentially a first-on, first-off placement system.


There are of course exceptions to this "first-on, first-off" rule. Local Unions are required to maintain A, B, and C lists, to give greater weight to workers with more than three years of work experience.


Contractors are also allowed to make specific requests for individuals based on previous employment. In addition, contractors may request workers with specific work experience.


Locals track members' and applicants' skills, experience and work history. For that reason, it is good to state any relevant experience whenever you call or notify the local to be placed on the out of work list.


The Local union posts the out of work list for the membership. Typically, the list is posted at the Local Union where it is available for inspection.


Can a contractor or member refuse a referral?

Generally, employers have the right to accept or reject an applicant referred by the Union or to discharge for just cause an employee who has been accepted, but proves unsatisfactory, subject to the procedure contained in the basic contract.


Upon a registrant being referred for employment and actually employed on a job more than three days, such registrant's name shall be removed from the list until such time as his employment has been terminated at which time he shall be registered at the bottom of the appropriate list under which he is entitled to be registered.


If a registrant, upon being referred in regular order, refuses to accept the referral, such registrant's name shall be placed at the bottom of the appropriate list under which he is entitled to be registered.


What is a grievance?

Perhaps one the greatest advantages of working under a collective bargaining agreement is one that most workers will never have to use.


If you are treated unjustly by your employer, cheated out of wages or benefits, coerced into working in an unsafe manner, or performing work that otherwise violates the agreement, you do not have to fight your employer alone.


Officers and staff of the union are trained to respond to these and other problems that occur between workers and their employers.


In addition, unions retain legal council to further ensure the rights of each worker are fully protected under every agreement.


Even if you are not sure that a situation or circumstance qualifies as a grievance against your employer, your union representative is prepared to answer your questions and to follow-up with your employer to make sure the work you do conforms to every aspect of the agreement. Working under a collective bargaining agreement means you are never alone. If you have any questions regarding your contract please contact your local union representative.


How do contractors become "signatory"?

To be eligible to receive the wages and fringe benefits you must work for a contractor who is signed to a collective bargaining agreement. Typically, contractors become "signatory" or signed to an agreement in one of four ways:


Bottom-Up: This method refers to an organizing drive where a work force that is not presently represented decides that it wants to work union. They petition the National Labor Relations Board to bring their contractor to an election. When they win the election the contractor must negotiate in good faith with the work force to reach an agreement, or the contractor may sign an existing agreement that covers the appropriate type of work.


Top-Down: This describes a contractor who signs an agreement without being taken to an election or directly organized by the work force. There are many reasons why contractors sign agreements without any direct or coercive action taken by the work force. Growing contractors, wanting to expand the area in which they work, may want to take advantage of union hiring halls across the state to work jobs in larger territories. Others may need the training offered through union apprentice and training programs. While, others may be moving into new markets and need to rely on experienced workers referred to them by local unions.


Sub-Contracting Clause: Many agreements contain language that require signatory contractors to use only those sub-contractors who are signed to an agreement. This clause acts as additional leverage to get sub-contractors who are not signed to agreements, but who want the work, to become signatory.


Project Agreement: This type of agreement allows a contractor to sign an agreement that is only good for the life of the project.


How are agreements negotiated?

All agreements are negotiated between labor and employer representatives. Generally, labor is represented by a committee made up of representatives of the Local Union, the District Council, and/or the International Union, depending on the particular jurisdiction of the agreement, i.e.; local, state or national agreements.


Employers, too, may negotiate agreements independently - as individual contractors -- or as a group -- through their local or national associations.


In Wisconsin, signatory employers may be signed to one or more local, state or national agreement. Members of local unions affected by an agreement, vote on the agreement, and offer their recommendation to the District Council. All agreements must be voted on and approved by District Council delegates. This action makes the agreement legal and protects the integrity of all agreements statewide.


What is craft jurisdiction?

As is the case in all construction crafts, laborer work has a defined jurisdiction that is recognized by employers and assigned to the laborer.


Jurisdiction continues to be the lifeblood of the union. In order to properly maintain the full jurisdiction granted to the Laborers International Union by charter from the American Federation of Labor in 1903, all representatives of the union, as well as its members, must be eternally vigilant in protecting our craft jurisdiction.


Occasionally, other crafts infringe on the jurisdiction of the laborer. Once that practice is established and recognized in an area it is often difficult and costly to have the work returned to the laborer.


When jurisdiction is in dispute, the matter is typically decided by an Administrative Law Judge, based on supporting evidence that may range from contract language to past practice in an area.


Of course the best defense of jurisdiction is a good offense. This generally means having local business representatives who learn to anticipate the work tasks before the employer makes a work assignment to another union, and who can obtain and document first or original assignment of the work.


This also means having knowledgeable members in the field who recognize possible problems and make these problems known to their local union representatives.

Quick Reference Guide

Wisconsin Laborers' District Council




Local #113, Milwaukee



Local #140, La Crosse



Local #268, Eau Claire


Local #330, Menasha



Local #464, Madison



Wisconsin Laborers' Apprenticeship and Training Center



Wisconsin Laborers' Health and Pension Funds