Like the history of America itself, the history of unions is America is…complicated. From the corrupting influence and control of some unions by organized crime; to the public demonization of unions that ramped up as a result of Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking, unionized federal air traffic controllers in 1981, unions have been both vilified by crony manipulation and a powerful tool for the advancement of workers’ rights and expansion of benefits.
Regardless of the involvement of some shady characters in some unions and union activities, and the recent efforts to destroy unions outright, unions have had an unmistakably positive influence on worker pay and benefits. Despite the current narrative that unions hinder employers’ ability to hire people who want to work (usually for wages far lower than what workers actually deserve), and place other undue restrictions on employers’ “rights,” the fact is that unions benefit not only the employees who are members, but collective bargaining efforts of union members also benefit employees who are not members of the union.
It is interesting that in today’s virulent anti-union Conservative movement, that the only union that is not frowned upon is the police union. Every other organization that provides worker protection and collective bargaining on behalf of employees, whether it is for teachers or restaurant workers, is the nemesis of every Conservative politician. And increasingly, few Liberal politicians are willing to offer full-throated and staunch support for unions as they make more of an effort to court Conservative voters.
Sadly, the full chronicle of historical gains and continued benefits of union membership and representation is no longer being told to the very people who would benefit from it the most – the American worker.
On this Labor Day, let us not overlook the importance of unions in the fight for workers’ rights, and let us redouble our efforts to strengthen unions for the benefit of all workers in America.