OVER A CENTURY ago, Labor Day was celebrated as a national holiday for the first time, thanks to a push from the labor movement. So much of what workers take for granted today — including paid holidays, sick leave, Social Security, and the minimum wage — exists thanks to unions.
Unions have made a world of difference for American workers, and even in the face of a shifting labor landscape, the labor movement is still very relevant. That’s why, as the primary approaches, we’ll be talking more about Unions For All. We believe in the power of unions, which is why we want to ensure all workers can join one.
The working world is dramatically different than it was even 10 or 20 years ago, with a decline in manufacturing jobs, a rise in service industry jobs and the birth of the gig economy. Over that time, union jobs have declined and income inequality has risen — the top 1% of wage earners have seen their share of national income nearly double in the last 50 years.
Workers are facing massive challenges to get ahead, but unions present an opportunity. Unions are the best tool working people have to organize and improve their working conditions.
Just look at the Fight for $15, a union-supported movement started by fast food workers that’s led to minimum wage increases across the country. It’s not just service industry workers who are unionizing; the tech industry, online media producers, and political campaign staff are organizing, too. Union popularity is climbing across the U.S., according to a recent Gallup poll.
Workers today are organizing because they know what unions have done. But, more importantly, they believe in what unions can help them do in the future.
Right now, most workers in New Hampshire are not part of a union — as of 2018, only 10% of the workforce was unionized. Organizing can be a long and arduous process but the potential rewards — fair wages, health benefits, paid family leave, safety improvements and worksite protections, to name a few — are well worth it.
We believe in Unions for All, because we know what workers can do when they organize. We’ve seen it and all workers can benefit. As my union, SEA/SEIU Local 1984, begins meeting with presidential candidates, we’ll be asking what they’ve done and what they will do to support Unions for All.
Unions have helped workers achieve so much and make our country a better, fairer place for all. Unions for All is not just a slogan — for us, it’s a goal. We know what workers can do when they organize. We’ve seen it and benefited from it. Imagine what we can do next.
Rich Gulla is president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984.