The anti-union ideologues were ecstatic this spring when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, tried to plunge a dagger in the heart of labor.
As we saw in Janus, too often, old stereotypes, myths, falsehoods and attack ads, paid for by big monied special interest groups, overshadow the work that today’s unions actually do.
But the court’s ruling may have had the reverse effect, actually invigorating and strengthening unions so that working people can continue to speak up for safe and fair workplaces and for the people they serve.
This is the first Labor Day since that disappointing ruling, and unions are proud to say that we are here, we are strong, and we will continue to fight for the public good.
Just look at what happened during the so-called spring uprisings, when tens of thousands of teachers and their unions were joined by parents, students and community members to fight for the right of students to have well-funded classrooms, from basic supplies to modern technology. If not for the unions, who said “enough is enough,” red state lawmakers would continue impeding public school students in their pursuit of the American dream.
What Unions Fight For
Unions make sure companies are held accountable for maintaining hazard-free factory floors and producing safe products.
Unions fight for safe staffing levels in hospitals, so that patient care isn’t delayed or jeopardized because a hospital would choose to skimp on the number of nurses and other healthcare workers on each shift to save money.
Unions fight for adequate training for all kinds of workers — from painting apprentices to first-responders to truck drivers.
Unions fight for livable wages, so employers can attract and retain top-notch workers, fight for health care coverage so that workers aren’t dependent on safety net programs, and fight for retirement benefits so that workers can enjoy their senior years in dignity.
Playbook for the 21st Century
Labor’s playbook for the 21st century includes making sure that as many workers as possible enjoy the benefits of union membership, including collaborating with management to improve workplaces and services.
We are perpetually expanding our tent to better reflect the diversity of the modern era and the great country in which we live. Workers in unrepresented industries where workers desire and rightfully deserve representation.
Just today, a Gallup poll published said that “Labor Union Approval is Steady and at a 15-Year High.” “Union approval rating is high and rising at 62 percent, the highest in 15 years. This rating is being driven by young people with 65 percent among 18- to 35-year-olds and that we’re breaking down political barriers. Republicans nearly split at 45 percent to 47 percent.”
We are expanding our alliances with the community, something that we take very seriously. Our union members don’t just paint schools; we help expand opportunities for students. We understand that partnerships work, that it will take real, transformational relationships to rebuild our local economies.
We are aggressively creating and promoting pre-apprenticeship finishing industry programs for high school students to be career-ready and accredited when they graduate. Something of which this country, currently, is in desperate need.
The Neighborhoods in Which We Live and Work
We are committed to the neighborhoods in which we live and work, such as in Nashville, Tenn., where we donated fully loaded backpacks for children and helped sponsor book events.
And unions like ours are mobilizing our members to become even more active in their union and in their community. Constantly focused on finding innovative ways to connect with workers who share our pursuit of safety, stability and upward mobility. Simple, right? Workers and families across the country are seeing that so much more can be accomplished when we work collectively rather than individually.
We are mobilizing to affect real change. The year 2016 made it clearer than ever that elections truly matter. The political turmoil of the last year and a half, along with the Janus decision, have reignited our engines as we move into the November elections.
Our members are engaging politically and want to play an active part in the fall election season because we know that our nation’s economic and social well-being are at stake. We will be working with our allies on behalf of candidates who agree that the public deserves strong schools, affordable and accessible health care, and a strong economy that works for all — not just the 1 percent.
Unions are strong, growing and will continue to work for the common good so that everyone has the chance for a better life.
About the Writer
Kenneth Rigmaiden is general president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.