Skip to main content

Let’s be honest. Sometimes, outside of election campaign seasons, even progressives wonder what’s so great about unions. Sure, we had a role to play before job safety laws, the eight-hour day, Social Security and civil rights laws were passed. But today?  

Even our friends aren’t immune to the relentless attacks on unions from the right and the stereotypes that come with them: union thugs, lazy workers, relics of the past, self-absorbed, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Most of you know that as union strength has declined over the past three or so decades, so has the middle class. That's because unions are just regular working people who come together to balance power with employers and bargain for better living and working standards. And when unions are weakened by corporate and right-wing politicians, all working people feel the squeeze.

But there’s probably a lot about what unions do that’s less familiar. Like that we run one of the largest worker training programs in this country. That innovative work by union members fuels today’s green technology. And that we supply a great deal of the man- and woman-power as well as the funding for community service programs, from running food drives to disaster recovery and winning health care benefits for people who don’t belong to unions.

These aren’t things we do to win political elections—they’re things we do because they represent our values. So we’ve created a new online feature that shows examples of working people and their union values in motion “@Work.” I hope you’ll visit it at www.aflcio.org/atwork—and until you do, here are some examples:

•    UAW members are leading the way in creating more fuel-efficient cars.  At Johnson Controls, they are manufacturing absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries that allow your car to shut down its big energy users while idling, but keep your lights and radio on and easily restart your car when you take your foot off the brake pedal.

•    AFT partners with the First Book program to provide new books to under-served children.  Teachers are making sure that students from any background have the tools they need to succeed in school.

•    The Domestic Workers United grassroots organization in New York created the Park Slope Education Project to inform local domestic workers of their rights under state and federal laws and to help responsible employers understand how to comply with the laws and be good bosses.

•    Helmets to Hardhats helps train and place military veterans in civilian careers—including construction jobs rebuilding the World Trade Center.  

•    The United Steelworkers helped carwash workers in Los Angeles get the health care they need and deserve.

•    Taxi drivers in New York City, despite being exempt from most labor laws because they are considered "independent" contractors, organized and formed the National Taxi Workers Alliance.  They’ve won increased take-home pay and expanded access to health care.

Even if you think you know unions, give us another look—you might be surprised.

Originally posted to Liz Shuler on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 10:59 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Dream Menders.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site