The Stand

We must restore the freedom to join together, form unions

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By REP. ADAM SMITH


(Sept. 7, 2018) — The ability to organize and collectively bargain for benefits is one of the most important advances in American law and our economy. This right has directly contributed to the shared prosperity and increased standards of living that helped grow America’s middle class. Union organizing furthers economic justice, results in higher incomes and better work environments, more diverse workforces, and expanded opportunity for all.

Unions, and the good they create, must be protected in the face of increasing threats to working people in America.

Growing up the son of a baggage handler at Sea-Tac Airport, I saw how my parents were able to raise a family and offer me opportunities for a bright future; in no small part because my father was a member of the Machinists union. The economic stability the union helped to secure for my family enabled me to build a future, just as unions continue to open the door to the American dream for families today. Organized labor is one of the most important means by which working people can push back against economic forces that are increasingly rigged against them.

 

Rep. Adam Smith speaks at the MLK Labor event on Labor Day in Burien.

Across the United States, we continue to see attempts to undercut hard-won rights and impose ever-greater barriers to organizing, collective bargaining, and unions’ ability to advocate for working people. The expansion of so-called “right to work” laws in several states and the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision this summer are attacks on workers and the unions that represent, organize, and collectively bargain on their behalf.

President Trump’s executive orders aimed at the federal workforce attempt to curtail official time, renegotiate labor contracts, and throw civil service protections and procedures overboard. In the private sector, too many corporations still engage in hostile, anti-union activities that aim to disenfranchise their workers.

American workers are under pressure. Against an erosion of economic security and labor rights, and as the cost of healthcare, housing, and education have exploded while wages have stagnated, it is little wonder why so many are feeling left behind.

It is critical that our country rededicate itself to first defending and then strengthening the right to organize and collectively bargain. In Congress, I have fought against the Trump administration and excoriated Supreme Court rulings for actively undermining labor protections and the rights of working Americans. I am fighting to improve protections for workers and their right to act collectively. We must fully restore rights to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, protections, and working conditions.

For too long under Republican majorities, Congress has sat on the sidelines and allowed the needs of working people and their families to fall by the wayside. Congress must reassert its leadership in guarding the right to organize and better address the core needs of all people.

We recently marked Labor Day — a celebration of the contributions of workers and labor unions to the creation and preservation of the American dream. At a time when the disparity of wealth is highest in our nation’s recent history, labor unions must be able to advocate for expanding equality of opportunity and to support the fight for justice for all.

I will continue to stand with unions and workers in the fight for all the good that results when workers join together to demand and achieve a better quality of life for Americans here in Washington state and throughout our country. Together, we can build a just, prosperous and equitable society for everyone.


Adam Smith represents Washington’s 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. For more information, visit adamsmith.house.gov.

 

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