Why All Workers Should Support Unions

firefightersIt’s official: Republicans have declared war on organized labor. Unclear to millions of unorganized workers is whether or not they should care. Thanks to years of right-wing propaganda — and labor union inertia — millions of Americans are “union skeptics,” unsure as to the nature of the union animal. These fence-straddlers have no direct experience with organized labor, but they will be absolutely crucial participants in this war of corporate power versus working people.

Why is a war against labor unions a war against working people at large? At bottom, unions represent the human right to work with respect, to receive decent wages and benefits, and to organize with your co-workers to ensure this right is enforced.

As millions of working people in America understand, a non-union work site typically means living with poor wages, poor or nonexistent benefits, and zero job security. The boss can fire you for glancing at him with a less than kind look, or because you complained about a workplace safety issue, etc. Unions empower workers to perform their jobs with dignity, without fear of the boss.

The AFL-CIO’s website helps explain how unions help all workers:

“Unions have made life better for all working Americans by helping to pass laws ending child labor, establishing the eight-hour day, protecting workers’ safety and health and helping create Social Security, unemployment insurance and the minimum wage…”

The right wing cannot answer the above arguments, so they avoid them, focusing instead on the greedy “union boss.” Unfortunately, partial truths aid this rightwing attack on unions; some labor leaders in the U.S. today act as self-serving rulers over their union kingdom, collecting large salaries via dues money while ignoring the demands of their members and the needs of unorganized working people.

This insular thinking of some union leaders has helped distance the labor movement from the rest of the working class, at the expense of both. The right wing is now exploiting this separation, painting labor unions as “ruining America” while corporations claim they cannot afford the high wages of union workers, and state and federal governments blame union workers for their budget problems.

Unions have become the right wing’s ultimate scapegoat for the recession in their attempts to funnel the rage that many working people feel against labor unions. The right wing maniacally works to shift attention away from those who caused the recession and even benefited from it — the banks and corporations — to those who suffer from it — workers, immigrants, and the poor. It is the classic syndrome of blaming the victim.

Re-shifting the blame to where it belongs will take a re-shifting of the labor movement. The stagnant thinking of union officials will need to be replaced with inspiring actions, for example, in Wisconsin, and with inspiring slogans, such as “No Concessions” and “Tax the Rich.”

Wisconsin proves that organizing massive demonstrations with aggressive tactics inspires all working people, who are eager to push back against the corporate power that has dominated American politics for decades, through both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

The more that rank and file union members are inspired by these collective actions, the less willing will they be to accept reductions in their wages and benefits, which, over time, has led to a steady demoralization of the labor movement. The harder that union members fight to maintain or increase their wages and benefits, the more willing will unorganized workers be to join unions, since all workers become hopeful when they see other workers fighting for their rights.

Ultimately, labor unions must work extra hard to re-connect with the non-union working class. Massive resources must be put into organizing private sector workers. Unions must lead coalitions of labor and community groups to demand Jobs For All, Medicare For All, the Defense of Social Security, and other policies that benefit all working people.

By doing this, labor unions will re-ignite the hope of a better life in millions of non-union workers, who will then actively support the cause of labor unions and ask to join them. Only then will labor unions be strong enough to repel the attack on union wages and benefits that both Republicans and Democrats have participated in, by balancing state budgets on the backs of state and federal workers. State workers must demand that budgets be balanced on the backs of the corporations and rich instead.

As state and local public sector workers in Wisconsin, and for that matter, working people throughout the country demand “No Concessions,” they can make their slogan more tangible by demanding “Tax the Rich and Corporations,” as the way to resolve the fiscal crisis, which is something that millions of non-union workers would eagerly support and fight for.

shamus cookeIf the Governor of Wisconsin still refuses to remove the union-busting, benefit-slashing legislation, even after the majority of people have expressed their desires, then workers must be prepared to enforce democracy by using one of their most powerful weapons. The Madison Central Labor Council has advocated a statewide strike in support of Wisconsin’s public workers. Unions in both the public and private sector across the state should respond positively to this call. And by raising the demand of Jobs For All to be paid for by taxing Wall Street, the unemployed will see that the unions are fighting for their interests as well and will be inspired to join the struggle.

Shamus Cooke


  1. says

    Without a strong labor movement this country is finished… labor laws and worker rights just didn’t happen.




    • Don says

      Labor laws are inforced by the federal Government, not unions. I suggest you look at just who is in control of the unions. Are you a communist? Seriously look before you speak.
      Unions are no longer anything but a small group of power mad people who take advantage of the workers in the union. The workers in the union have no say in were the money they are forced to pay to the union goes. It is public information look it up, in 201o the unions gave not one dime to their worker, yet the million dollar salaries were paid to it’s leaders. Plus millions donated to communist groups, corrupt politicians and nice little parties for them, not you the union workers. It has been a very, very, very long time since the unions actually did anything for workers safety, there are now groups like OSHA who over see job site safety and they do a very good job at it. The unions do not do squat for it’s workers. If you have a brain, look it up for yourself. I am a former union worker who got fed up with worthless co-workers who could not be fired because of the worthless union. I got fed up
      with being forced to pay the unions for my job, I got fed up with my hard earned money being given to groups and politicians I do not support, so are you all sheep or do you all have a mind of your own? Unions are worthless scam artist ripping of union members to further the cause of union bosses. Do the homework and learn for yourself.

  2. Elaine says

    I am not a union skeptic!! I am completely against unions, all of them. The only thing a union does is take away from the individual worker that are not union people, turn the Union Leaders into the Fat Cats who take from the members, use the members dues to fatten their wallets and to hire more people that are not unions to protest. Spend their members dues on elections to get certain people re-elected. They pay the bad workers right along side the good workers the same thing and that is wrong. We the people that do not belong to these unions end up paying for these people no matter if they are good or bad employees. That is what is wrong with the majority of teachers today. And AFL-CIO, Richard Trumpka promotes violence and that greedy — needs someone to kick his tail. He tells them if they hear someone putting him down or saying bad things about him to get rough with them and knock them around. And this is what goes to the White House 3 or 4 times a week. Obama takes up for these low life union leaders who, in my opinion, take advantage of their members and the businesses that the union members work at. When they start protesting against the businesses it is like they are blackmailing them. Remember Hoffa, the Teamsters and the baseball bats, the Mafia, the Communists and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. I am not a Democrat, but I do not think there are any real Democrats any more. But I do know what the Kennedy’s were trying to do and that seems to have been forgotten even though they both were killed afterward. Is this what all of you support?

    • says

      Blah blah blah, Unions built this country that you so enjoy,I also think you are living in a dream world where you think that the Republican bozo machine really gives a hoot what you think, they want your vote,when they get it,they could care less what you do. How about telling us what went to the White House for 8 yrs prior to Obama instead of the same ole ignorant BS you Rs always tout! When your job or pension whatever the case may be is taken away from you,you will be the first in line to cry.Lies,lies and more lies is all the Republicans are about, do you really think they care about You getting a tax break? if you do, you are more dumber than most.Big money corps is ALL they care about! nothing more.

      • Don says

        Same can be said about the democrats. Unions did not build this country, hard working men and women built this country long before the unions came around. I will give the unions credit for some of the past however, at one time the unions did help the workers and improve job safety. This is no longer the case, there are regulations in place that employeers must meet and inforced by OSHA.
        Unions no longer do a damn thing for workers but take their money and donate to corrupt politicians on both sides. Republicans get union money to. I suggest you actually do some research other than just repeat what you heard some other sheeple say. Learn a new argument.
        I am also neither a Republican or Democrate, I do not blindly follow a political party. I have a brain and do not vote along a party line because neither party at all times follows what I stand for, so I choose based on what my ideals are, not what a politcal parties ideals are at the moment. So keep following blindly and see where it takes you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *