The Labor Movement is #FightingforFamilies in Every State
By: AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler
In her response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Stacey Abrams encapsulated the sentiment of our current times when she said, “Under the current administration, hard-working Americans are falling behind, living paycheck to paycheck, most without labor unions to protect them from even worse harm.”
The easiest and most effective way to reverse this trend is to support and expand collective bargaining. A bigger, stronger labor movement is the surefire path to higher wages, better benefits, safety at work and a voice on the job. Not to mention, the issues far too many working Americans are still fighting for—equal pay, paid family leave and protection from discrimination, to name a few—are more likely with a union card.
Nearly seven million women have a voice on the job thanks to our union membership, and collective bargaining has helped to narrow the pay gap between men and women. A typical woman in a union job makes $231 more a week and is far more likely to have health benefits and retirement security.
But we are not satisfied. Not when 87% of American workers don’t have paid family leave. Not when parents have to choose between a paycheck and welcoming a newborn into the world or caring for an elderly parent. Not when queer and trans people can still be fired for who they are in more than half of all states. And not when sexual harassment continues to corrode our workplaces and communities.
The labor movement is committed to winning justice, both through our contracts and progressive public policy, in every state across the country.
Even before #MeToo became a worldwide rallying cry, the labor movement began looking at ways to change ourselves from within. The AFL-CIO took a long hard look at our own behavior and adopted a strict anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. We also enacted a comprehensive Code of Conduct, which is the first order of business at every single meeting and is supported by an ongoing education program to change the culture of our unions and workplaces. From movie studios and newsrooms to restaurants and hotels, organized labor has drawn a clear line in the sand.
We’ve also bargained countless union contracts, in red and blue states, over the years to support and protect LGBTQ workers, ensuring that all members have equal access to key benefits and are free from discrimination and violence on the job. For many LGBTQ Americans, a union card is their only form of protection at work.
Advancing fairness and justice benefits all working people, regardless of where we work or live. That’s why we’re #FightingforFamilies and supporting the paid family and medical leave legislation recently introduced in 20 states, from Virginia to Minnesota. Workers also advocated for policies that recently raised the minimum wage in five states, including three which are now on a path to $15 per hour.
We’re leading the charge to raise the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t been increased in almost a decade. And, we’re supporting policies that protect LGBTQ workers and pregnant women on the job.
Yet today, this simple fact remains: Forming a union is the most direct and effective way to secure equal pay, paid family leave, more flexible schedules, protection from discrimination and a seat at the table. Forming a union is the best way to fight for families.
Join us. Together, we can change the status quo for families in every state, across our country and the world.