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Labor Day 2017

Big corporations, politicians and wealthy interests have rigged our economy and our politics against working people for decades. They have robbed Americans of the freedom to earn a decent living, have work-life balance, take a loved one to the doctor or attend a parent-teacher conference without fear of losing their job, and retire with dignity. 

This Labor Day, workers are confronting the rigged system – and the politicians and corporations who prop it up – and putting unions front and center in the national conversation. As corporations and the wealthy continue to benefit from record wealth while working people find it harder and harder to make ends meet and provide for their families, joining together in unions gives workers a voice. When working people have the freedom to join strong unions and negotiate a fair return for their work, they win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field.


Unions are the most effective way for workers to come together and counter the influence big money and big corporations have on our democracy. By forming strong unions, workers are able to negotiate wages and benefits that support their families and better working conditions, like safe staffing ratios in hospitals and safe and secure schools or smaller class sizes that help students to succeed. And we use our collective voice to advocate for policies that benefit all working people – like increases to the minimum wage, affordable health care, and great public schools for students – and elect politicians who will stand up for working people, not the wealthy and corporate interests. 

Unions are critically important to fix a rigged economy that disproportionately hurts workers of color. Across the country, more than half of black workers and nearly 60 percent of Latino workers are paid less than $15 per hour.

If corporations and politicians eliminate our freedom to form unions, they’ll continue to drive down wages, kill jobs, defund our public schools and services, silence working people at the ballot box, and cripple the fundamental values of freedom and opportunity we hold dear as Americans. 

The rigged economy disproportionately hurts women and people of color. But unions provide the most effective vehicle for women and people of color to gain their fair share of the wealth they create and to secure the freedoms and rights they deserve. 

Those of us in the civil rights community and those of us in the labor movement know that civil rights and economic rights are inextricably linked. As Dr. King believed, one cannot be achieved without the other. That is why, in 1968, Dr. King came to the aid of striking Memphis sanitation workers who were protesting inhumane conditions that led to the gruesome death of two workers on the job. The striking workers were demanding that their union be recognized.

Today, the labor movement and our allies continue to carry that legacy to stand up to bigotry, discrimination and inequality in the workplace and in our communities. 

So called “right-to-work” laws originated in the Jim Crow south and were designed to keep black workers disenfranchised and less able to organize for power. Today, billionaire CEOs and right-wing politicians continue to rig the rules against people of color, using state legislatures and the U.S. court system to push through these so called “right-to work” laws that keep wages down for everyone, both union and non-union alike. 

Just the facts:

  • Union jobs have historically been and continue to be a path to the middle class for communities of color, who often face low wages in their professions. Black union members today earn 14.7% more and Latino union workers 21.8% more than their non-union counterparts. In some sectors the difference is even greater.
  • Black women in unions earn an average of $21.90 an hour while non-union women earn $17.04. In addition, more than 72% of women in unions have health insurance, while less than 50% of non-union black women do.
  • When Latinos are members of a union, their median weekly income increases by more than 38% and, in some cases, are 41% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance.
  • Because unions allow all workers to join together to negotiate with their employers for fair wages and benefits, the wage gap between women and men in unions is dramatically lower than in non-union workplaces – about 9 cents and shrinking. Meanwhile, most non-union women still earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Related:

Freedom to Join Unions Can Fix This Rigged Economy 



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Ron Hendrix