Across the country, Americans are working longer hours for less money and fewer benefits, despite being more productive than ever. No matter how hard we work, many are finding it more difficult to provide for their families. Meanwhile, a handful of CEOs and the very rich have seen their wealth skyrocket.
This is not by accident.
Big corporations and the wealthy — along with the politicians who do their bidding — have rigged our economy and our political system against working people.
This Labor Day, we must confront this rigged system head-on. We can start by protecting and strengthening the freedom of American workers to join together in unions. When working people speak up together through unions, we make progress that benefits everyone.
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Today, despite attacks from so-called “right-to-work” and other anti-worker legislation, people in unions continue to win rights, benefits and protections for all working people. When nurses, firefighters, 911 dispatchers and EMS workers belong to unions, we fight for staffing levels, equipment and training that save lives. When educators join together in unions, they advocate better learning opportunities for students, such as small class sizes and modern textbooks. When union membership is high, entire communities enjoy wages that represent a fair return on their work and greater social and economic mobility. Unions use a unified voice to advocate for policies that benefit all working people — such as living wages, education, health care and retirement benefits.
That is why working people across the country are calling on elected leaders and candidates to publicly support the freedom to join together in unions and make their communities better. American workers are standing up for an equal chance at the American Dream and the ability to improve our lives and communities.
We know the truth: When freedom to join together in unions is secure, other freedoms will follow. Freedoms like the ability to attend a parent-teacher conference or to take off work when you’re sick without fear of losing our job or income. The freedom to choose where you live because high-quality public schools are in all communities. Finally, the freedom to retire with dignity.
Unions like mine fight for these freedoms for everyone, which makes us the target of giant corporations and the super-rich, who use their wealth and power to rig our country’s economic rules against working people. Their latest attack, Janus v. AFSCME, strikes directly at the rights of working people to join together in unions, threatening to damage the economy further.
If corporations and politicians are successful in these attacks, they will continue to drive down wages, defund public schools and services, silence working people and cripple the fundamental values we celebrate each Labor Day.
Labor unions are more critical to America’s success than ever. Union members know that freedom is not given; it is fought for, and must be protected. We’re going to keep fighting to protect those rights and improve our communities for everyone.
Leland Heinbach is president of the Boise Central Trades and Labor Council and a 14-year member of UA 296 Plumbers and Pipefitters.