GUEST COMMENTARY: Unions protect all working people

2013-09-01T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Unions protect all working peopleBy Dan Murchek nwitimes.com
September 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Labor Day means many things to many people, the unofficial last day of summer, an odd day off before school really kicks in. A day to sleep in and maybe to grill out with friend and family. Yes, it is a great day to do all of those things, but in reality, the day represents so much more.

Labor Day celebrates all working men and women in this country, but it is the day to recognize unions. Collective bargaining and actions by organized labor led to benefits affecting all working people in this country such as the 40-hour workweek, overtime, benefits, safety standards, child labor laws and the creation of middle class in this country. Rules that began in a contract have become statutes and standards for everyone. But labor unions and our members cannot rest on past success.

Unions and working people face unique challenges today. Gone are the days of getting a decent-paying job, directly out of high school or college, with no more than a desire to work hard. Gone, too, is the feeling of community created by living and working in an area where both bosses and workers had stakes and ties to the region. In this environment, the focus of unions has had to change and evolve into more than just the watch dogs on the shop floor.

Labor has become the voice for all working people in helping ensure our children have jobs and possibilities.

America has always been the land of opportunity. Anything was possible. But times have changed. The global economy has created a race to the bottom in terms of wages and benefits.

Shipping jobs overseas might help boost shareholder profits or inflate the corporate bottom line, but what does it do for people here, who are the intended consumers? Likewise, how can workers have a collective voice if laws are aimed at eliminating unions?

Labor unions have evolved to position our members to work together with employers to create win-win situations. An employee's success should be a success for the employer and vice versa. Concessions during hard times should be remembered during good times. Likewise, unions are the political and social conscious speaking for all working people. It has become the role of unions to protect the interests and rights of all working Americans. We are the voice.

But unions do not exist in a vacuum. Erosion of the rights of unions to organize and represent workers affects everyone and must stop. America will be strong as long as we have a vibrant middle class, with good American jobs available in this country.

It is our duty as working people to stand up for each other. An attack on one worker in any sector is an attack on all of us. Let's keep America strong for all who are here and future generation.

Dan Murchek is president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor. The opinions are the writer's.

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