Nobody can deny the importance of work. It’s not just imperative to keep society moving, it’s also fulfilling for the worker. A nice, full day of work at a job you love can be personally satisfying in ways that can be difficult to put in words. The motivation and dedication to go to work and exceed expectations is what part of what makes American workers American, but it doesn’t mean those workers are willing to stand for exploitation, either. There is a long history of organizations exploiting the labor of their workers (to say nothing of how America’s wealth was largely built through slavery) and cutting corners to avoid providing fair pay and safe working conditions. But as in so many cases, Americans, upon seeing this injustice, came together to form a solution. This solution came in the form of trade unions, where groups of workers with a common interest bonded together to fight for justice for their members, and even people who weren’t members.
That’s a part of the history of labor unions that is often misunderstood: by harnessing the economic and political power of their members, actions by unions have won necessary victories in businesses and government that have lead to increased protections for all workers, whether they are members of the union or not. It hasn’t always been easy… big business, always looking to protect their profits above all else, have use anti-Union propaganda to paint organized labor as a financial drain on workers, and funded Republican lawmakers to pass anti-Union legislation such as the Orwellian “right to work” laws and oppose pro-Labor judges such as Merrick Garland (who Senate Majority Leader refused to even allow a hearing).
Racism has also been used as a cudgel to hurt Unions – it is no surprise that the decline of Union membership in the United States began in the 50s, when the Civil Rights movement began gaining prominence. Organized labor has long been supportive of Civil Rights leaders, and have long fought for equal and fair wages for all workers, regardless of race or ethnicity. Anti-Labor forces have then exploited stereotypes of “lazy” black and Hispanic people to convince white workers that Unions aren’t serving their best interests, and anti-Union Republicans were (when in reality they were merely serving the interests of the big businesses lining their pockets with campaign contributions). More recently, the (wholly inaccurate) depiction of undocumented immigrants as refusing to work and being leeches on government aid or weaponizing ICE to retaliate against workers who have been protesting hostile working conditions are just another example of racism being used to try and drive a wedge between Americans for the benefit of Republicans and their donors.
Thankfully, the American worker has seen this increased impudence from Republicans and their Big business backers and noticed. Unions are increasing in popularity again – they have a higher approval rating from the American people than they have had in generations. Social Media has helped people bring attention to injustice in the workplace and call out business owners who exploit their employees, and Democratic lawmakers have been right there alongside them fighting. This labor day, see what your local labor Unions are doing, and see who have been supporting them. Together, Unions and the Democratic party are fighting for fair compensation, safe working conditions, and secure retirements for all Americans and people who wish to be Americans.
The work continues.