The Cost of Complaining

The other night, I attended my first union meeting. My position at the city is a union one.  I didn’t think about it much until the initiation fee of $200 came out of my paycheck, as well as the monthly dues.  Ouch!  Since I could recoup $100 of that fee by going to a meeting, I thought I’d better check it out for myself.

Did I mention I’m in the machinists and woodworkers union?  Yeah.

I made my way into the room at the union hall. All the lights were on inside. Looking in the window of an adjacent room, I saw several men and one woman. Ah, the meeting before the public meeting. Must be the executive board. Their eyes watched me as I pushed on the door held open by a 10 lb weight.  Rows of metal chairs greeted me.  I was the first one there.

I sat towards the back and waited. One by one, men in jeans and sweatshirts filed in.  Big men. Men over 6 feet tall, with flowing hair to their shoulders filled the back row.  Gulp. “Though there be giants in the land, I will not be afraid…”

I sat quietly, hoping nobody would notice me. Two other ladies joined us. Despite my jeans, boots and sweatshirt, I was easily the most feminine among us.  Makeup and jewelry will do that.

“Meeting shall come to order,” intoned the union president, a baseball-capped man with a goatee

And we were off.  Minutes of the last meeting were read aloud.  Invitations to attend different conferences got announced.

“Move to participate in the Woodworkers Conference in New Orleans?”

“Move to not participate.” the guy in the second row would say.

“Do I hear a second?” the president asked.

“Seconded,” the man wearing a safety vest in the front row responded.

“All in favor?”

“Aye,” came the lackluster chorus.

It got interesting when the dues increase came up.

“Any discussion from the floor?”

“We’re not working regularly,” the lanky man behind me piped up. “We can’t afford the $5* dues.  You’re bleeding us dry!”

Wait a minute.  We’re talking about five dollars? As in, $5 per month?

I sat on the unyielding gray metal chairs, flummoxed.

See, my dues amount to more than 10 times that amount.  I didn’t like it, but I figured having a union rep on my side, should the need arise, would be worth the cost.

As the argument continued, all I could think was, why complain?  This hardly seemed like the thing to whip the union governing body over.  Such a pittance for such a great defensive muscle.

I started to think of all the things I complain about.  We take the things provided for us for granted. The coffee is too strong.  My hair…well, that’s a whole continent of complaining. But…I have coffee in hand.  I still have hair, too. Is it worth it, in the end, this kvetching?  Why not accept the great thing that is right in front of me and make the best of it?  How much more well-oiled the machinery of human relationships would be if we expressed gratefulness instead of griping?

Just my $5 worth.

* Not the actual amount, but close.


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