When I walked in our building on Friday, I saw stacks of packages of water bottles. I was curious what was going on so I asked one of the union representatives in the building. He told me his union, Transport Workers, was taking water bottles to Flint to help with the water problem they are experiencing.
Other unions have also been helping. Teamsters were taking bottled water donated by them and their employers. The Plumbers and Pipefitters union donated their skills to replace outdated faucets and install filters for residents so they would have better water to drink. Plumbing companies donated the faucets.
These are just a few of the examples of what unions do to help out those in need and, what’s more, it also shows what labor and management do when they work together. As we tell labor-management groups more can be accomplished by working together than working apart.
On Friday we also had our board meeting and we talked about the Flint water problem and how labor and management is helping the community.
But we also talked about the many workplace benefits we workers, both union and non-union, enjoy thanks to unions. Things like:
- Weekends off
- 40 hour work weeks
- 8 hour work days
- Overtime pay
- Safe workplaces
- Sick leave
- Child labor laws
- Laws ending sweat shops
- Vacation time
- Paid holiday time
- Military leave
are all items unions have worked hard to get and we all benefit from but people don’t always think about it or realize it. They take them for granted. There are many more items that could go on it because that’s just a start.
Today the number of people in unions is far less than it was in 1983. The unionized workforce is only 12% compared to 23% in 1983. The fewer number of union workers hurts all of us in the middle class by over a third which is significant! Yet the pay for unionized employees is substantially greater than non-union workers which, of course, is another benefit unions provide. The weekly median wage earning for full-time union workers is $975 compared to the non-worker whose weekly median wage at $776. Which type of organization would you prefer? (U. S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Without unions, our communities suffer. Go back to the beginning of this blog and the donations unions are providing to the residents of Flint. When 9/11 occurred, many unions gave their time and skills to bring New York City back. Your favorite teacher that was so willing to help you when you struggled could have been a member of a union. The people that help keep the lights glowing in your home and those that help heat your homes during cold winter nights are probably union people. Unions help everybody – people in all jobs, different ethnic backgrounds, different racial groups, gender and on and on.
So the next time you may be wondering why unions are necessary think about the weekend you’re planning and looking forward to or the vacation you plan to take or what you’ll be doing after work. When you listen to someone complain about unions, remind them about all those things, and, remember to say “thank you” to a union member the next time you see them.