Everyone Benefits From Unions

“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden freedom is lost.” President Ronald Reagan.

United we bargain. Divided we beg,” Service Employees International Union slogan.

We all do better when we all do better,” the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.

Everyone doing better involves collective action and win-win solutions. This is what collective bargaining by unions is all about. It is democracy applied to the workplace. Ronald Reagan’s statement is true even if spoken disingenuously by a union busting politician.

We are all better off because of unions. Even if you have never been represented by one, unions have made your life better. Unions set the standards for good family supporting jobs. Most people don’t expect to get rich but they do expect to be treated fairly, make enough to live on, and have a little financial security. Unions made these reasonable expectations possible.

Unions allowed many workers to achieve a decent middle class lifestyle. Better pay was only part of the gains. Unions setting the standards for common benefits like health insurance, sick leave, vacations, holidays, retirement plans, and even coffee breaks.

We wouldn’t have weekends without unions pushing for the 8 hour day and 40 hour week. Employers had to be forced, through laws and union contracts, to allow workers time for their families or some social life.

Unions provide a voice for all working people in the political arena. Through lobbying and political activism unions help promote the common good. Unions have advocated for minimum wages, equal pay for women, workplace safety, and fair treatment of older workers.

Unions help to keep people informed. Unions analyze legislation and do policy research to protect workers interests. They provide information on elected representatives’ voting records and make recommendations (called endorsements) on which candidates are the best choice.

Unions peaked at 35% of the workforce in the 1960s.Today only about 10% of workers are unionized. In Wisconsin the decline exceeded national trends. From 2011 to 2016, under Republican Scott Walker, union representation fell from 14.1 to 9 percent and the share of families in the middle class in Wisconsin fell by 5.7 percent. With this decline has come falling real wages, more poverty and less economic security. There is a direct connection between union strength and the economic well being of working and middle class people.

The good news is unions are increasing in popularity especially with younger workers. In 2022 the National Labor Relations Board has had a 53% increase in union election petitions. More than 60 million workers wanted to join a union but did not have that opportunity. The Gallop Poll say 71% of Americans approve of labor unions.

These are hopeful signs for a better future. But, as we all know, what people want often doesn’t happen in our rigged economy and political system. Unions are an essential tool for making improvements. We all need to vote for candidates who support unions. If we do, we will all benefit.