Labor Day, Worker’s Rights, and Unions.

For most people, Labor Day is about a three-day weekend, BBQ, and a three-day weekend.

 

Unlike Veteran’s Day, there doesn’t seem to be this massive push of conversation and meme generation to enlighten people as to the true importance. At least what push there is doesn’t seem to be very loud or widespread. Maybe this year will be a little different. We’ll see. All I know is we can contribute our voice to this and hopefully you’ll spread the word about the importance of Labor Day, worker’s rights, and unions.

 

Labor Day is about labor. It’s about work. It’s the day we celebrate what we do all year long. It’s not a day for viewing ourselves as heroes, but to give thanks to those that have given us so much.

 

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What Unions gave us.

  • Weekends
  • All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
  • Paid Vacation
  • FMLA (Family paid leave)
  • Sick Leave
  • Social Security
  • Minimum Wage
  • Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  • 8-Hour Work Day
    • (It was not unheard for employers to compel workers  to work 10+ hours a day throughout the week and threatened with termination if they did not comply. There was no protection for workers.)
  • Overtime Pay
  • Child Labor Laws
    • (Once the US had a labor environment similar to Countries like China, and worse. Children were allowed to work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, also with no protection or governmental oversight.)
  • Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  • 40 Hour Work Week
  • Worker’s Compensation
    • (Worker’s Comp. Lost an arm? You’re fired; we can’t use you anymore. Seriously, a business would feel forced to fire injured workers to make a statement that it was the employee’s negligence that led to the accident. And remember, no protection)
  • Unemployment Insurance
    • (There was no such thing as unemployment. Workers who were fired often found themselves in debtors prisons. They were imprisoned for not paying bills or outstanding loans.)
  • Pensions
    • (Once pensions were unheard of. Then they were common. Now: how many people do you know that have pensions with their jobs–and manage to keep their job without getting laid off before retirement?)
  • Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
  • Employer Health Care Insurance
  • Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
  • Wrongful Termination Laws
    • (Thanks to unions, you couldn’t be fired for unfair reasons. Corporations are finding ways around this today with “downsizing” and layoffs and sending jobs to other countries.)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
    • (Prior to 1967, you could be fired for being too old. This was another of firing employees before pensions. You could also be removed from consideration for a job because of your age. This practice is becoming more and more commonplace once again.)
  • Whistleblower Protection Laws
  • Employee Polygraph Protect Act
    • (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee. Lie detectors are notoriously unreliable, especially in frightening situations.)
  • Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  • Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
  • Sexual Harassment Laws
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Holiday Pay
  • Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
  • Privacy Rights
  • Pregnancy and Parental Leave
  • Military Leave
  • The Right to Strike
  • Public Education for Children
  • Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011
    • (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  • Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

 

ALL of these rights and legal protections are available to union and non-union workers alike. Even improvements and benefits that were fought for and earned by unions have become available to non-union workers because the practices became so commonplace that non-union jobs had to adopt these benefits and practices just to remain competitive. In many cases, the changes have been made into law for all Americans.

 

Unions have been weakened in recent years. It is partly a push by Republicans to weaken union influence in politics. Unions overwhelmingly support liberal candidates (the same way gun manufacturers and the NRA support conservative candidates.)

 

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By weakening unions, republicans shrink their coffers and diminish their ability to financially support Democrat candidates. They also succeed in weakening the unions influence over the hearts and minds of the workers themselves. Some might see this as a good thing, and will argue that unions are to blame for bloated wages for union workers that force industries into bankruptcy.

 

Unions supporters point to the rarity of these case scenarios and point out that it is in the best interest of the union and the workers to keep their industries vital, and that unions bear very little blame for the collapse of any industry. They point to states that have successfully passed “Right to Work” laws.  These deceptively claim to represent greater power for the worker, but actually tie the hands of unions, reducing their membership and the funds drawn from union dues.  They also allow those states, all backed by conservatives, to lower wages, cut benefits, reduce oversight of businesses and accountability for safe and pleasant working conditions.

 

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Some argue that there is no need for unions any more. Yet their aggressive push to kill unions and sweep anti-worker legislation through those states demonstrates that we need unions now as much as ever, if we want to continue to enjoy the improvements we’ve seen for the American worker over the last century.
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