EDITOR'S NOTE: This posting on the California Labor Federation's webpage is nearly seven years old. But we think its message is as timely as ever.
Family and friends gathering in one place, cooking together, and sharing all of the things they’re most grateful for is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My family takes the being grateful thing seriously and this year I’m going to take time to say why I’m grateful for my union (but really: all unions). We spend most of our time working so anything that improves that part of our lives is worth our gratitude. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are are 7 reasons why I’m thankful for my union:
1. Fair & equal pay is a guarantee with my union!
Equal pay for equal work is not always a guarantee for women in the US. Recent data shows that the gender pay gap still exists for many women today. In fact, women are said to earn 77 cents on average for every dollar their male counterparts bring home. And the gap only increases for women of color. For every dollar a man earns, a Latina earns an average of 54 cents! While there are efforts to tackle this pay gap affecting millions of women, there is one sure-fire way to ensure I earn the same salary as my male counterparts: My union contract. It’s clear as day how much I earn and how much my coworkers earn. Not to mention studies showing women in unions earn 11 percent more than non-union workers. It’s no wonder the Economic Policy Institute recommends protecting and expanding collective bargaining rights in their new Women’s Economic Agenda!
2. I have a voice at work
When my coworkers and I stand together, it’s simple: our managers listen. We frequently have ideas on how to improve work flow and increase efficiency and through our union we have a process and a forum to bring those ideas to our organization. No matter what you do or where you work, you have first-hand knowledge of how to make your job and your workplace better. That’s something we all share. But I know from experience, when you’re alone it can be tough to get your voice heard. Having a union standing behind you? Now that’s an entirely different story.
3. My union is democratic
Everything we do, we vote on. It could be what officer we want to elect, if we want to approve changes to our contract, and so much more. We have committees that go into detail on topics and then report back to a larger group who then votes on any new proposals. There’s a lot of things in this world that seem unfair and unclear but – even if I disagree with the outcome of a vote – I know our system is fair and it’s always transparent.
4. My benefits
As a millennial with lots millennial friends, I know the benefits I have at work are rare to find without a union contract. If I’m sick I can take a day off. If someone in my family gets sick, I can take care of them. I have retirement security! As I see my grandparents and parents aging, I understand how important yet difficult or impossible (unless of course you’re a millionaire CEO) it can be to save up enough to stay out of poverty when you retire. So many people today are just trying to find work that puts food on the table. But with a union, you can negotiate for so much more than just a decent wage. You can bargain for benefits that improve your life beyond your paycheck and give you some security when you and your family need it the most.
5. I have job security
My boss is great but anyone who has worked in a bad job before knows this isn’t always the case. There are managers who come into your life and it seems like their mission is to just ruin your day. In other jobs when I didn’t have a union, I would see coworkers get disciplined (and even fired!) for the most asinine reasons. But without a union, it felt like there was nothing I could do to help them. With a union, I have due process if I mess up or if a manager thinks I messed up. I have a chance to defend myself with someone by my side every step of the way.
6. Unions make my world better
It’s easy to focus on the things that directly impact me in a tangible way like salary and benefits thanks to my union. But truth be told I’m also grateful to live in a world where unions exist. There’s so much good that has come from unions. The kind of stuff that seems so normal today: weekends, overtime pay, workplace health and safety laws, voting rights, an end to child labor….I can go on and on. Nearly everything that helps working class and low-income people in our country comes out of a union struggle. There’s no shortage of examples of people standing together throughout our history to change the status quo.
7. My union builds community where I work
I’m closer with my coworkers because of our union. Our union brings us together. Union meetings and bargaining sessions (and maybe a few happy hours!) give me a chance to get to know them outside of work, especially the coworkers who I may not work with directly every day. There’s nothing better than going to work everyday and liking the people you work with and feeling a sense of community.