Stronger Unions For a Better Pennsylvania

Rick_Headshot_SmallCheck out this article from President Rick Bloomingdale from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s Summer Newsletter: 

Over the last several months, Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder, our staff, and I have traveled around the Commonwealth listening to and talking with our leaders and members about the state of our grassroots activism and the front line in our fight for workers’ rights.  One concern always comes up: “the labor movement is under attack.” 

Whether it is the dismantling of workers safety rules to protect people on the job, the protection of corporate tax cuts over the healthcare of millions of Americans, or the threat to our very right to organize, it is true: “working people are under attack”.

So why are these attacks happening? There are three important factors to consider. First, the general public has been subjected to a misinformation campaign designed by corporate special interests and extreme media outlets.  Second, our own members do not fully recognize or understand, what the union does for them or what they really mean to their union.  And finally, there are fewer of us. At one time in Pennsylvania, everyone was either in a union or had a relative in a union.  Folks could see the real benefits of being a union member.  They knew that working people deserve respect, and should be treated fairly.  They knew that in a town or county with a lot of unionized workers that when Union wages went up, everyone’s wages went up.  Over the years, our density has declined, leading to a loss of that direct connection, while wage stagnation has persisted. 

As Governor Tom Wolf often says, 30 years ago anyone proposing “Right to Work” legislation would have been laughed off whatever stage they were on.  Today that type of legislation is taken seriously, even though it remains as wrong as it was 30 years ago.  It produces no jobs, does nothing for the economy, and its only purpose is to weaken unions and drive down workers’ wages.  How do we change this dynamic?  It’s not rocket science, but it is hard.  The answer will not come from elected officials, the answer must come from us – That answer is to organize! 

CartoonMany polls show that if given the opportunity, over half the people surveyed would join a union.  Many folks are never asked to organize or join a union. But that’s what it’s going to take.  Once we ask, we get to the hard part.  In this day and age, it takes courage to join that organizing committee that wants to form a union. Unfortunately, employers still illegally fire people for talking about joining a union. Management is constantly watching to see who you’re talking to.  I’ve known supervisors to follow workers into the bathroom to make sure workers weren’t talking union.

Why would anyone put up with the harassment?  Any thing worth having is worth fighting for. 

Not many employers want to share power, and let’s be clear: this is about power.  It’s about the power to have a voice on the job, it’s about the ability to negotiate for wages related to your productivity. Once workers organize, they can use their solidarity to strengthen communities and lift others up. With stronger unions, we can, and have, used our power to strengthen health and safety laws, consumer protection laws, and advocate for stronger laws to protect our communities and put a check on greedy corporations.

Stronger unions can and will rebuild Pennsylvania, and to do that we must organize, organize, ORGANIZE!

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