The Stand

This Labor Day, celebrate power of solidarity

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By joining together and committing to real change, we have the power to do it all!

 

By LARRY BROWN


(Aug. 30, 2019) — This weekend we celebrate Labor Day, and this year we have much to celebrate.

Unions are on the rise — and they should be. Our labor has created the world’s most productive economy, and together, we have the power to change the rules of our economy so that ALL of our families can thrive by bringing home a larger share of what we create.

Here in Washington, our friends, family and neighbors are organizing, picketing and winning a voice on the job for fair pay and good benefits. Our solidarity and union membership are on the rise here in the third most unionized state in the nation.

Some of us are getting involved in politics for the first time to demand our elected officials support our government and the services we want and need. We want quality public schools, safe roads and bridges, and a strong future for our children and communities.

Nurses and healthcare workers from multiple unions rallied together July 26 outside the Providence Health headquarters in Renton.

But it all starts with the freedom to join together and negotiate a fair return for our work. That freedom has been under attack for decades. Corporations have rigged the economy to work for the few at the expense of the rest of us. They have tried to destroy labor unions by enlisting their political supporters to undermine the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA is clear; its goal is to encourage collective bargaining. Yet changes in recent decades have made it harder and harder for workers to form unions. As a result, every worker in America labors harder than ever for less and less.

This injustice is serious and deeply felt by too many of us, but we can reverse this situation. The simple truth is that as we organize a greater share of workers into unions, our economy and society will become more equal. That is why labor law reform is an urgent national necessity.

Earlier this year, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act was introduced in Congress by our own Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and it is now co-sponsored by every other Democratic member of Washington’s congressional delegation. The PRO Act does many important things, including protecting the right to strike and banning right-to-work laws. It provides substantial relief for workers whose rights have been violated, creates a process for reaching a first contract once a union is recognized and puts in place a true deterrent, so employers think twice before violating the law.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) met with local union organizers and leaders about the PRO Act on Aug. 5 at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Snohomish & Island County Labor Council.

The PRO Act will help us win a fair share in the massive wealth we create. In every corner of the country, working people are embracing collective action with a fervor not seen in a very long time. Our laws need to catch up. The PRO Act must become the law of the land. We demand our elected leaders champion this bill on behalf of America’s working families.

But as we celebrate Labor Day, it is important to remember that when we stand together — whether we’re union members or not — we have the power to create a fair economy and just society for all. The corporate class and wealthy elite know this. That’s why they spend billions attacking unions. In doing so, they are attacking democracy itself. You can’t have a vibrant democracy without an independent, healthy trade union movement.

So, at the same time we fight for good jobs and livable wages, unions must also fight alongside our community partners for affordable housing, student loan relief, and comprehensive immigration reform. We must fight against systemic racism, inhumane border policies, and undemocratic voting restrictions. And we must address the existential threat of climate change.

Here at the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, we have had a healthy debate about how we should prioritize this critical work. At our 2019 Convention, my first as the newly elected WSLC President, I addressed union delegates from across the state for the first time and told them: We must do it all!

We are nurses, grocery workers, fire fighters, aerospace engineers and machinists, building trades workers, teachers, bus drivers, social service workers, flight attendants, postal employees, and so much more. We join together in our individual unions to have a stronger voice on the job. Our unions join together at the WSLC to have an even stronger voice and to help each other succeed.

Likewise, the labor movement must join together with like-minded community and progressive groups that want a more just economy and society. Together we are stronger.

Labor Day isn’t just a holiday – it’s a reminder than we have the power to make real change for our families and communities, when we join together.


Larry Brown is president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The WSLC is the largest union organization in the state, representing more than 600 labor organizations with some 550,000 rank-and-file members.

 

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