The workers fare better in times of economic growth and are most vulnerable during a recession. This is probably not anything new to us. Short-sighted business executives, when faced with a down-turn in the market immediately go for cost-cutting measures and in any organization, the biggest line item is labor.
This has not been a great year for the trade union movement. The assault by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) – I can’t think of another name for it – is stunning.What is even more difficult to understand is that many of these workers actually voted him into power. The US has never polarized along class lines as we have seen in the UK and other European countries.
But then American politicians (and their aides of course) understand so well how to manipulate the media (which is only worried about ratings not content) and to avoid discussing the major issues. How were Republicans, just months after losing the Presidential election, able to get away with criticizing Obama for the ‘economic situation’?
So for those of you who wonder, here are 10 reasons why we need Trade Unions, courtesy of Union Solidarity:
10 REASONS TO JOIN A UNION
1. People who belong to unions have better wages and conditions than non-union members: – Did you know that union members on average earn 15% more than non-union members!
2. Unionised workplaces have better health and safety conditions and are more likely to elect representatives who are then legally entitled to monitor health and safety at work.
3. Unions have a long and proud history of defending the rights of working women, part timers and casuals. It is much more difficult for employers to discriminate against women union members who are aware of their rights. Anti-discrimination laws, paid maternity leave and family leave was won by unions who continue to fight for improved conditions for part time and casual workers.
4. Overtime rates, annual leave, rostered days off, redundancy agreements, long service leave payments – these are all conditions fought for by unions. Employers do not just hand out entitlements.
5. Unions collectively and individually support education and training for employees and lobby for on-the-job training for members. The benefits flow onto everyone.
6. The Union movement has successfully lobbied state and federal governments for better laws to protect low paid workers such as outworkers.
7. People who are active in their unions learn heaps about their working environment and how it can be improved – they can help fellow workers and have fun at the same time.
8. In tough economic times, employers will try to cut jobs and increase productivity – it is unions who make sure that big companies don’t put profit before people.
9. Unions help to break down barriers in workplaces – they unite workers and create a community so workers don’t feel isolated and fearful of employers.
10. Unions are involved in important social and community issues. The environment, women’s movement, Aboriginal reconciliation, rebuilding East Timor and other overseas aid and rights for refugees are just some of the social justice issues unions become involved with.
I would like to add one more that I saw on a car bumper sticker:
Actually the one I saw said: God gave us the Sabbath, but the unions gave us the weekend!
Happy May 1st.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).