Opinion: Commentary: America Needs Unions

Opinion: Commentary: America Needs Unions

This Labor Day, while some of us attend barbeques or spend quality time with our families, millions of Americans will go to work.

Americans are now working longer hours for lower wages. Despite an increase in our educational attainment, fewer of us have paid sick days, parental leave or employer-based healthcare. Even fewer of us have retirements we can count on.

Unions are a solution to our broken economy.

Working people who form unions with their co-workers earn higher wages, have better health care, have more secure retirements, and are safer on the job.

The statistics are overwhelming. Working people in unions earn 30 percent more than their non-union counterparts, and are nearly five times more likely to have a guaranteed pension. Women workers who are union members earn nearly $9,000 a year more than their non-union counterparts. For African-American workers, the union differential is also about $9,000, and for Latino workers the yearly advantage is more than $11,000.

Unions have made all the difference in my family’s life.

I’m the great-grandson of eastern European Jewish immigrants, who fled anti-Semitic violence, and came to this country with nothing. Thanks to my grandparents’ union, my father was able to go to college. Thanks to my mother’s teachers union (in which she was a powerful leader), our family never had to choose between seeing a doctor and putting food on the table, and my parents can now retire and live with dignity.

It’s no wonder that more people are speaking out, organizing and voting for the rights to form a union.

Across the country, in deeply-conservative states like Oklahoma and West Virginia, union teachers and community allies have successfully mobilized for improvements to our education system, teacher pay and workers’ rights.

Here in Virginia in 2016, a bipartisan majority of voters rejected the anti-worker constitutional amendment known as “right to work,” while last month, voters in Missouri rejected the state’s right-to-work law by a 2:1 margin.

Across the country, 61 percent of Americans support unions, according to a recent Gallup Poll. Young workers are even more supportive, and are joining unions in record numbers, in order to fix a broken economy.

When workers join together to form unions, we all benefit.

Strong unions raise wages, improve health care, and expand retirement security for all workers, union and non-union. Unions have played important roles in the civil rights movement and women’s rights movement, and continue today to fight for racial, immigrant and environmental justice.

Here in Northern Virginia, unions have helped lead fights to raise wages, increase mental health funding, create jobs, and ensure health care for up to 400,000 people through Medicaid Expansion.

So, this Labor Day, whether you’re enjoying a burger with family and friends or you’re hard at work at your job (or maybe your second or third job), I invite you to join us.

Let us all unite together on our jobs, in our communities, and at the polls this November, to demand a better economic future for all people!

Learn more at AmericaNeedsUnions.org

David Broder is the president of SEIU Virginia 512, a union of home care providers, and county employees in Fairfax and Loudoun.