From Jack Metzgar
Temple University Press, 2000
The labor union is an underappreciated and easily misunderstood institution. It's underappreciated first because American culture depreciates all institutions as "bureaucracies" that stifle the natural goodness and spontaneous vitality of both "the individual" and that collected mass of individuals we call "the people." But of all of our institutions, none (with the exception of the armed forces) goes against the grain of our radical individualism like the union -- not just in its practice, but in its beliefs. Most people have little or no direct experience as a union member, and even members, particularly those who have to join the union as a condition of employment, have little to do with the union unless or until they have trouble. Most union members probably appreciate their union, if they do, like they appreciate the sewer system -- they're glad it's there, but they neither understand how it works nor are cognizant that it works until it malfunctions. Only those who directly experience the before and after of the union can properly appreciate it for what it is and what it does.
From the AFL-CIO, what are the concrete benefits of union jobs?
Unions matter. They matter in pay, in health and safety, in dignity. This Labor Day we need to be recommitting to fight for unions and what they bring to workers everywhere.