Freedom to Join Unions Can Fix This Rigged Economy 

Across the country, Americans are working longer hours for less money and fewer benefits, despite being more productive than ever. No matter how hard we work, many are finding it more and more difficult to get by and provide for their families. All the while, a handful of CEOs and those who are already rich have seen their salaries and wealth skyrocket.  

This is not by accident. 

Big corporations and the wealthy – along with the politicians who do their bidding – have rigged our economy and our political system against working people.  

This Labor Day, we need to confront this rigged system head on. It’ll take a lot to fix it – and we can start by protecting and strengthening the freedom of American workers to join together in strong unions. Because when working people have the opportunity to speak up together through unions, we make progress that benefits everyone. 

Even when the deck is stacked beyond all odds, the strength in numbers that unions provide lifts up entire communities. In 1968, almost fifty years ago, Dr. King marched alongside striking sanitation workers who demanded the freedom to join a union. It was their union that gave them a voice and the power in numbers to resist racist so-called “right-to-work” legislation that to this day drives wages down for working people and communities of color. 

Today, despite unprecedented attacks from so-called “right-to-work” legislation and other political scams, people in unions continue to win rights, benefits, and protections not only for themselves, but also for all working people in and outside of the workplace. When nurses, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, and EMS workers belong to strong unions, we fight for staffing levels, equipment, and training that save lives. When educators join together in a union, they advocate better learning opportunities for students like small class sizes and modern textbooks. When union membership is high, entire communities enjoy wages that represent a fair return on their work and greater social and economic mobility. And unions 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.

That is why working people across the country are calling on elected leaders and candidates running for office to publicly support the freedom of working people to join together in unions and make their communities better.  From fast food workers demanding $15 an hour and a union to public service workers speaking up for great public schools and service, American workers are standing up. 

We know the truth: When the freedom to join together in unions is secure, other freedoms are likely to be too.  Like the freedom to attend a parent-teacher conference or to take off work when they’re sick without fear of losing our jobs or pay for the day. Or the freedom to choose where to live because high-quality public schools are available to all communities, not just those who are wealthy. Or the freedom to retire with dignity.

Unions like mine fight for these freedoms for everyone, and that’s why we are the target of the CEOs who have used their wealth and power to rig our country’s economic rules against working people. They are now trying to get the Supreme Court to take up a case, Janus v. AFSCME to strike at the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions, threatening to rig the economy even further.

If corporations and politicians wipe out our freedom to form unions, they’ll be able to keep driving down wages, killing jobs, defunding our public schools and services, silencing working people at the ballot box, and crippling the fundamental values we celebrate today.

Labor unions are more critical to America’s success than ever. Union members know that freedom is not given, it is fought for, and it has to be protected. And we’re going to keep fighting to protect it and fix this rigged system once and for all.  

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Ron Hendrix