Unions matter now more than ever

Union membership faded after the industrial booms of centuries past, right? Fewer dangerous factories and mines, so no real need for laborers to organize, right?

No. In fact, unionization matters now more than ever.

Corporations possess inordinate power and influence in Pennsylvania and national politics. Last year’s Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case overturning precedent and the will of our commonwealth’s legislature reinforced this fact by taking even more power from the women and men whose work drives our economy.

Therefore, the time is now to stand up to corporate interests and the lawmakers and lobbyists whose priorities seem to be tax cuts for the rich.

Capitalism and organized labor go hand in hand as workers continue to fight for fair wages, benefits and working conditions.

The first union in the United States – the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers) – started in Philadelphia in 1794. Unions continued growing in Pennsylvania, with our state serving as the epicenter of the coal and steelworkers’ unions. Today, Pennsylvanians continue the fight for workers’ rights, though in decreasing numbers as we see rules and regulations and continuous tweaking that benefit corporations.

In the late 1930s, unionization sparked sweeping federal legislation that provided for collective bargaining and set a federal minimum wage.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.7 percent of workers today belong to unions (vs. one third of workers in the 1950s). Yet unions continue to provide support for reform measures, such as a living wage, more affordable and accessible health care, and workplace measures such as fair scheduling.

Anyone who’s been paid for working overtime or earned sick time, who’s been able to negotiate a better wage or increased benefits for themselves or their family, or who’s enjoyed a 40-hour work week, can undoubtedly thank unions. As the daughter of a union electrician, I learned early on how proud my dad was to belong to IBEW Local 98 and how it benefitted my family.

I fully support measures that make it easier for Pennsylvanians to join labor unions, and I continually fight anti-union legislation. Union apprenticeship programs provide a great training ground for good-paying jobs in highly skilled trades

In addition, teachers, nurses, health care workers and sales clerks in supermarkets and Pennsylvania wine and spirits stores are union members. All of these jobs contribute to our communities and strengthen our economy.

As lawmakers, we should demand that government contracts go to companies that respect workers’ freedom to unionize. Those contracts, as well as subsidies and grants, should not go to companies that violate workers’ rights.

There is a real difference between being an independent contractor and an employee in terms of income, benefits and taxation. Working families are the basis of the middle class, and they live and work in all of our communities.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, I am hosting a House Democratic Policy Committee on the importance of unions and the contributions they make to our communities. Joining me at the UFCW Local 1776 Meeting Hall, Building A, in Plymouth Meeting, will be Gerald Oleksiak, Pennsylvania secretary of Labor & Industry.

In addition, we’ll have a panel featuring Wendell Young IV (president, United Food & Commercial Workers Local #1776), Korri Brown (vice president, Pennsylvania State Education Association), Sue Swift (president, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children Chapter of Nurses United), Bob Creswell (business representative, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98), Maureen May (president, Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners), and Chad Trainer (legislative director, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO).

The meeting is among a series held across Pennsylvania on the House Democrats’ Plan4PA, which focuses on putting people first by growing good jobs, providing health care access, creating quality schools and providing training for jobs in a fair economy.

Sincerely,

Rep. Mary Jo Daley
148th Legislative District