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Our Local was founded in 1917. Maybe in olden times a man could go his own way. But, these days, you've got to play ball.Actually membership in a union is a requirement in some shops. For example where I work, it is mandatory to be part of the union as much as you may or may not want to be. Otherwise you can't work those jobs and therefore cannot have that job. It is not optional as it is written into the collective agreement that you cannot work those jobs without union membership. The only 'option' you have there is either not to be a part of the union and thereby be out of a job, or be a member and retain your job.
Our old union hall had a bar. So, there was a social aspect to the meetings.