This year, the incoming chill of fall is carrying more than just autumn leaves – it’s bringing with it the winds of change. Workers across America are saying enough is enough in response to stagnant wages, brutal working conditions, and mistreatment of workers in the midst of a recession, global pandemic, and skyrocketing corporate profits. Over 100,000 organized workers from across the country have authorized strikes in the last several weeks, demanding better pay, better hours, and safer working conditions. Yes, it’s #Striketober.
We are seeing the beginnings of a resurgence of America’s labor movement following over four decades of anti-union disinformation and a near-constant onslaught against the rights workers literally died fighting for through the early 1900s.
Labor unions in that era used the power of collective bargaining as an instrument to demand things we now take for granted, such as the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, workplace safety regulations, and the right to organize and negotiate with their employers. Unfortunately, the power of organized labor has been intentionally and systematically stripped away over the decades, whittling down the ability of employees to collectively bargain and leaving unions a shell of what they once were.
Through the implementation of right-to-work laws, deregulation on corporations’ abilities to union bust, and rulings such as Janus v. AFSCME which served to defund unions, deregulation and vast wealth inequality have diminished the power of individual workers to form collectives. These political changes and legal hurdles damaging the leverage of unions have come from decades of corporate lobbying and propaganda. Corporations and trade groups have outspent unions by about 60 to 1 in political money for the last 20 years. Nothing proves the power of collectivism and worker solidarity more than the amount corporations are willing to spend to squash their efforts.
These anti-worker changes have serious repercussions throughout the economy. Within our economic system, there is a dichotomy between the goals of the investor class – to innovate, expand, and grow wealth – and workers – to improve their own livelihoods and partake in the fruits of their hard work. Both are important, but the balance in recent decades has tilted heavily in favor of the investor class.
Destabilization of the balance between workers and corporations has and will continue to increase the inequality between the investors and the working members of society until the entire system comes crashing down as a result.
Healthy unions and the ability for workers to organize and advocate for themselves is one of the most, if not the single-most, crucial aspects of our economy. When that is threatened, we all suffer as a result. Unions level the playing field for workers, gives them collateral, and allows for balanced negotiations with their employers. It gives workers the ability to support themselves and their families through honest work.
And it has already been demonstrated in states where workers are able to secure better wages and benefits for themselves, it has shown to be beneficial to not only workers, but also to local businesses and economies. The more money in the hands of working people, the more money circulating in the local economy. Better compensation for the working class serves to stimulate the economy, much more effectively than inflated CEO pay or stock buybacks. And when higher wages for working people end up boosting the economy, even millionaires like ourselves benefit. It’s truly a win-win scenario.
So support your local union and stand in solidarity with your fellow countrymen as they fight for the equity of not just themselves, but for the equality of every working American.