Why Union

  • How unions helped build a middle class for workers in the U.S.A.

    Unions have been around for more than a century, and they’ve done more good for America’s working people — union and non-union — and have gotten less credit for it than any institution in the United States. An essay by Harry Kelber.

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  • Who’s Looking Out for Your Rights?

    It’s not big business Fred Erwin is a professional firefighter for the City of Greensboro, Local 947. If you’re a worker trying to decide who to vote for in 2010, Fred has one question for you: “Who’s looking out for your rights?” Watch the video: “It is true: for big businesses, their bottom line is […]

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  • The 2010 Labor Video of the Year

    And the winner is… This winning video, “What Have the Unions Ever Done for Us?“, comes from our brothers and sisters in the Australia labor movement. It’s definitely worth two minutes of your time. To see all six of the top videos, visit LabourStart.org or click here.

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  • Making a Place for Labor History

    by Michael Schwalbe

    Michael Schwalbe is a professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. He recently had a piece published in the print edition of the News & Observer about the importance of recognizing labor’s contributions to our society, contributions many Americans may take for granted. We have reprinted his piece here with permission:

    When teaching about social movements in America, I ask my students how many of them had to take a U.S. labor history course in high school. For the last twenty-five years the answer has been the same. Not a one.

    I ask the question to make a point about how we learn what’s needed for social change to occur. If all we know about social change comes from celebrating the lives of Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King Jr., we may think that change results mainly from individual moral heroism.

    The study of labor history teaches a different lesson: change occurs through organized, persistent, collective action by ordinary people. It’s not surprising that those with the biggest stake in preserving the status quo don’t want that lesson taught.

    But times might be changing. After twelve years of legislative efforts, the state of Wisconsin recently passed the Labor History in the Schools Bill, the first such law in the country. The new law makes labor history part of the state’s standard social studies curriculum.

    The purpose of the bill is to ensure that students learn about the roles played by workers, labor unions, and collective bargaining in the history of America. Every state ought to enact a version of this law. Students everywhere need to know their labor history.

    Pro-union bumper stickers remind us that unions are the people who brought us the weekend. The rest of the story would include other benefits won by organized labor: pensions, workers’ compensation, health plans, vacations, the eight-hour day, overtime pay, and many safety laws.

    To take these benefits for granted is not simply a failure to appreciate how unions have helped us all. It is a failure to understand U.S. history. It is akin to taking for granted our independence from the British, with no knowledge of the Revolutionary War.

    Promoting the study of labor history is not, in other words, a matter of being for or against unions. It’s a matter of being for education. The present, as the saying goes, is incomprehensible without an understanding of the past.

    For example, my students at North Carolina State University are often surprised to learn that ours is the least unionized state in the nation; that North Carolina is one of only two states that outlaw public sector collective bargaining; and that economic inequality is greater today than at any time since the Great Depression. They want to know how things got this way.

    A good labor history course would answer this question.

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  • Crystal Lee “Norma Rae” Sutton Dead of Cancer

    Crystal Lee Sutton at her home in Burlington, N.C. Photo Credit: By Joseph Rodriguez — Associated Press Icon of labor movement leaves a legacy of ‘UNION’ The day before the start of our state AFL-CIO convention in Atlantic Beach, we received notice that Crystal Lee Sutton, the real life Norma Rae, had entered hospice care […]

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  • Pope Benedict XVI: Unions Needed More than Ever

    Workers’ right to form unions must be honored Pope Benedict XVI released a new encyclical last week to address the challenges people face because of globalization. The Pope notes that it is often government, under the (false) assumption it’s good for the economy, that limit the freedom to form unions: “Through the combination of social […]

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  • SHARE THIS: Just Another Cog in the Machine

    What difference can a union make where you work? workSMART, a project of the Trade Union Congress, the organized labor movement in the United Kingdom, like the AFL-CIO in the United States, has put together a fantastic video that speaks to anyone who goes to a job every day where they feel like just another […]

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  • Union Plus Save My Home Hotline

    Union Plus is a service of Union Privilege, which was established by the AFL-CIO to provide consumer benefits to members and retirees of participating labor unions. Union Plus has launched a special hotline for union members and their families that are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments or facing possible home foreclosure. Call […]

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  • Chamber of Commerce Launches Attack on Unions

    On August 19, the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce with the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host a rally in Hickory to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act and other pro-worker legislation. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Reps. Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry, Sue Myrick, and Robin Hayes will attend the Chamber’s rally and speak […]

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  • Crystal Lee ‘Norma Rae’ Sutton is Battling Cancer

    The textile industry was once the lifeblood of small towns like Roanoke Rapids, where Crystal Lee Sutton grew up and raised three children. At the J.P. Stevens mill where Sutton worked, she earned just $2.65 an hour toiling under poor conditions. Then, in 1973, Sutton met a coal miner turned organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing […]

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  • Unionization Increases Pay of Low-Wage Workers

    Unionization significantly boosts the wages of workers across the income spectrum, with low-wage workers seeing the greatest benefit, according to a report released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The report, The Union Advantage for Low-Wage Workers, shows union membership in North Carolina boosted the wages of low- to middle-income workers by […]

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  • IBT Membership Grows in NC

    Teamsters Local 391 has an aggressive attitude about organizing. That attitude is paying off as the Teamsters have recently won key organizing victories in both the public and private sectors. “Organizing is tough,” said Jack Cipriani, Teamsters Local 391 President. “Here in North Carolina, the task is extra tough. But our recent success shows that […]

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  • Enrollment Open for 2008 Labor School

    The 2008 session of Carolina Labor School will be held on the campus of UNC-Wilmington on Sunday, June 22 – Friday, June 27. Download the flyer and registration form. Because of limited meeting space, we put a cap on the number of registrations we accept. Confirmations are made on a first-come, first-serve basis. The deadline […]

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  • International Workers’ Day / May Day

    Few people in the United States know that May 1, 2008 is a holiday – International Workers’ Day – recognized in almost every country with the exception of the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. Ironically, it was U.S. workers that founded the holiday. International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day) is deeply rooted in […]

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  • FLOC Action @ R.J. Reynolds Shareholder Meeting

    Reynolds still refuses to meet with FLOC to discuss the plight of their tobacco field workers. FLOC supporters will gather Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at the Reynolds American Plaza Building, RAI’s corporate offices, on 401 N Main Street, Winston-Salem, NC. What: Take action at Reynolds shareholder meeting When: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 8:00 AM […]

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