Please look around you. Every single thing you have, from the clothes on your back to the food that you eat, to the very roof over your head, exists because of labor. We survive because of the blood, sweat, and tears that are put into everything that humans rely on. Never forget that.
Having said that, it’s disheartening to realize that the average American worker is treated horribly, so I can’t even imagine the dismal conditions overseas. It is common knowledge that someone making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in this country is automatically in poverty, and 2/3rds of those people are women. Many workers have no health insurance and no other benefits to speak of. They also have no job security, and are increasingly expected to put their health and safety at risk to heighten production and profits for the corporations.
Why such harsh conditions? Because as of 2020, only 6.2 percent of private sector workers in America are in unions. And the labor movement did receive a harsh blow when Amazon managed to lie to, intimidate, and bully its workers in Bessemer, Alabama, into voting against adopting a union. The fact that they put so much effort into their disinformation campaign shows you how afraid of unions they are.
Why on earth would anyone vote against a union? Because their employers have treated them so wonderfully up to this point? See above. Because of fear of job loss? That’s illegal, and you have more power than you think. Employers are NOTHING without employees. The whole point of unionizing is that you can speak to management with one huge, powerful voice, and for the first time, they’ll have to listen.
And they will listen. Don’t believe me? You’re already benefiting from unions even if you’ve never joined one yourself. Thanks to unions, we have weekends, breaks at work, lunch, what benefits we do have, social security, minimum wage (no matter how dismal, it could be even worse), 8 hour work days, overtime, child labor laws, a 40 hour work week, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, pensions, OSHA, wrongful termination laws, whistleblower protection laws, sexual harassment laws, Americans with Disabilities Act, public education, and no more sweatshops.
None of the things mentioned in that last paragraph came about out of the goodness of employers’ hearts. All of us benefit from the existence of unions. Think of that the next time you’re tailgating outside a football stadium.
The only legitimate complaints I hear about unions are that you are expected to pay union dues, that they pit labor against management, and that it’s hard to get rid of the dead wood, the slackers, in a unionized organization. I’ll address all of these in turn, because you deserve to know the truth.
With regard to the dues, believe me when I say they pay for themselves in no time. Like I said, we all have the benefits mentioned above, and union workers are paid so much better, and have such better benefits, that it’s all worth it. In fact, they get paid more than 27 percent more, on the average. I make even more than that. My non-union bridgetender brothers and sisters in Florida make 11 dollars an hour if they’re lucky. I make 33 dollars an hour here in Seattle, and can expect a raise pretty much every year. That says a lot.
Labor vs. Management? Don’t be fooled. You have always been pitted against management. Their sole purpose in life is to maximize profits, even if it means grinding you into the dirt. That’s why unions were created in the first place. At least with a union, the fight is a lot more fair, and out in the open.
I will admit that the dead wood issue is a problem. No system is perfect. There are a certain percentage of slackers and people who make your life miserable in just about any organization, union or no union. And I have to say that the union has saved my bacon more than once, so if I have to put up with some dead wood in exchange for phenomenal job security myself, I’ll take it. You do you, as the saying goes. I’ll continue to take pride in my work.
Anyway, happy May Day, and here’s hoping that you have a job that you love that pays you a living wage, dear reader! Power to the people. Union strong.
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