This long holiday weekend has been brought to you by the blood sweat and tears of the Labor Movement; enjoy your holiday Monday, but don’t take it for granted. It is very easy to forget how many workers and organizers lost their lives and jobs, were thrown in jail or were beaten up to win labour rights that we in the developed world don’t even think twice about these days. Here’s some other things that our unionized (great-) grandfathers and grandmothers worked hard for (via Democratic Underground). Even if you only work part time in the worst job possible here in North America, you still enjoy at least some of the fruits that labour has fought for:
1. Minimum Wage: Without federally mandated minimum wage, we’d still be working for pennies.
2. Child Labor Laws: Without these laws, children would be hired as cheap labor.
3. Paid Vacations: Did you go on a cruise this year? Perhaps to the Grand Canyon or another country? Thank a union.
4. Employer Health Care, Dental, and Vision Insurance: If you have a medical, dental, or vision care plan through your employer, you are a lucky person, all because of organized labor.
5. Pensions: If you were able to retire at 65 and get pension checks in the mail, congratulations, you’re living proof that unions work.
6. Safety Conditions: Do you work at a potentially hazardous job but have safety regulations in place to protect you? If so, unions are responsible for your continued safety.
7. Collective Bargaining: Just having the right to negotiate with your employer is a benefit guaranteed by a union.
8. Weekends: If you have weekends off to spend with your families, a labor union is responsible for giving you that time off.
9. Sick Leave: Did you get to use a work provided sick day to get well? Unions fought for that too.
10. Overtime: Are you able to work overtime and get paid even more for it? Thank a union.
11. 8 Hour Work Day: Without unions, we’d all be working non-stop 24/7. Because of unions you’re able to go home and spend some time at home with family and friends before you catch 6-8 hours of sleep.
12. 40 Hour Work Week: Just like number 11, without unions, we’d never have a day off and work would encompass our entire life.
13. Unemployment Benefits: Are you unemployed but receive unemployment benefits to care for your family until you find another job? One word. Unions.
14. Wrongful Termination Laws: Because of unions, you can’t be fired for stupid reasons, like the color of your skin or because you make too much money.
15. Pay Raises: Unions are responsible for your ability to ask for and receive pay raises.
16. Holiday Pay: Do you at least get some holidays off? If so, thank a union.
17. Pregnancy and Parental Leave: In some countries, women give birth on the job and have to go back to work the next day. Corporations would make women do the same thing here if not for the determination of a union.
18. The Right To Strike: We have the right to organize and protest against the government. A union fought for your right to organize and strike against your employer.
19. Equal Pay For Women: Women finally get equal pay for equal work. Thank a union.
20. Laws Ending Sweatshops: Because of unions, sweatshops, which employ cheap labor with harsh conditions, are illegal.
“Unions – imperfect as they may be – are the only counterbalance we have to unbridled corporate power.”
Paul Krugman, Economist and Nobel Prize Winner
For more discussion on this topic, and how the neoconservatives in the U.S. and Canada are working hard to repeal much of these hard-won workers’ rights, see the links below. BTW, in light of recent antics of Scott Walker in Wisconsin and other like-minded Republicans as well as the current Canadian federal government’s steps to limit worker’s rights, it’s informative to be reminded that early on in his regime, on May 3 1933, Adolph Hitler outlawed trade unions and abolished collective bargaining and the right to strike. This was the beginning of his consolidation of power. Chilling, isn’t it?!