Unions are as important as ever in the face of greed
The labor movement continues to make waves across the country. Union members from universities to newspapers are proving it.
From the Haymarket affair in Chicago to the strikes we’re seeing in 2023, the labor movement has been a cornerstone of American democracy.
In a world where greedy CEOs flaunt faux-patriotism while shipping jobs overseas to save money on wages, it’s more important than ever to stand up for workers’ rights to livable wages, sufficient health care and a dignified work environment.
Unions across the nation are showing that the movement and demands that come with it are here to stay.
Perhaps the most recent union victory came on Saturday in New Jersey, where Rutgers University announced a tentative deal with three unions that were on strike for five days, temporarily putting a halt on classes.
The participating unions were the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union; the AAUP-AFT, representing full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates and counselors; and the AAUP-BHSNJ, representing faculty in the health and sciences departments.
As a result of the demonstrations, barring any interference, part-time faculty secured a deal that would entail a 44% wage increase over their contracts and bolster job security.
Graduate workers won a 33% wage increase over four years, and full-time faculty as well as the school's Economic Opportunity Fund counselors are slated to see wage increases by at least 14% over the next two years.
The strike in New Jersey was just the most recent in a surge of unified action at universities nationwide, and it also reiterated the power such organizations have.
That comes despite only modest increases in membership.
In 2022, 10.1% of wage and salary workers belonged to a union, a decrease of .2 percentage points from 2021, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released earlier this year.
The Long Haul is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
In total, the number of said workers in unions actually increased by 1.9% in that time frame, while the total number of workers increased by 3.9%, most of whom were non-union workers, the report states.
With the number of workers in the country outpacing the number of unionized employees, the U.S. also drastically lags behind other nations in terms of union membership.
The most recent statistics from the International Labour Organization show that the U.S. ranks 101st in the world in union participation.
Yes, in what is supposed to be the strongest democracy in the world, 100 other countries have higher rates of workers fighting for their collective interests.
Of those nations, Iceland ranks first with 91.4% of workers belonging to a union as of 2019, according to the organization.
The remaining countries in the top five are Cuba, 81.4%; Denmark, 67%; Sweden, 65.2%; and Finland, 58.8%.
Even so, there is still hope for fledgling unions in America. Another recent example, which is close to my heart, is the striking Pittsburgh-Post Gazette workers here in Pennsylvania.
In October, workers in the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh went on strike due to unfair labor practices less than two weeks after other workers did the same, combining forces on the picket line.
Under the substandard work environment under Block Communications, chaired by Allan Block, workers have demanded that the company rescind working conditions they deem illegal and receive the right — not privilege — to comprehensive health care.
In what has been the longest newspaper strike in decades, according to Jacobin, a leftist magazine, the workers have incessantly fought for fair treatment and have even taken to publishing the work of the striking workers.
The workers do so through the the Pittsburgh Union Progress, which has proven to be a journalistic powerhouse in the Pittsburgh area.
Yet at the same time, the Post-Gazette also continues to hire reporters. And, rightfully so, striking workers and those who support them have rightfully outed them out as scabs.
As the solidarity among striking workers remains strong, and their calls remain interminable, it should remind greedy CEOs and others that the working class is not one to be messed with.
They are the ones who produce the product that you call your own. Without them, you are just a figurehead sitting on an empty bank vault.
Capitalism is indeed the driver behind these issues, but in lieu of likely systemic change, organizations such as unions will be essential in advocating for the rights of everyday people.
It won’t be an easy fight, nor has it ever been, as evidenced by the Haymarket affair in 1886. But without emboldened workers demanding change, the everyday person won’t stand a chance.
For those interested in contacting me, I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @loganhullinger.