"The sky is falling! The labor movement is dead!" That's the reaction by opponents of unions to last week's report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that union membership dropped by nearly a quarter of a million last year.
But the truth is, collective action in America is stronger than ever, said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. "We’ve seen the source of our power in defeating the TPP, even when most people told us we couldn’t," Trumka noted. "We’ve seen it in successfully raising wages at the state and local levels against great political odds. And we’ll use it to begin to change the tide for all working people."
Trumka pointed out that a strong labor movement raises wages for all working families and improves the entire economy. The same report from the BLS said that workers in a union made $202 more per week than those without a union.
Trumka recognized that the labor movement does have challenges. The biggest have been put in place by corporations and politicians who have been at the throats of workers for years, he said. "The ugly truth," said Trumka, is that "because of these attacks, we live in a country where working people are constantly denied our right – our constitutional right – to join a union in the first place. With the way the deck is currently stacked, it’s a miracle that brave workers continue to find new ways to organize."
But, said Trumka, the American labor movement must also recognize its own challenges. "We must be a better movement for a changing workforce," he said. "We must adapt our structures to fit the needs of today’s workers. We must not be afraid to challenge ourselves to better serve working families. And we know we will succeed because we are committed to doing just that, inspired by the spirit we see in working people every day from coast to coast, in industries far and wide."
On today's labor calendar, former organizer Steve Early will lead a discussion about his new book -- “Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of An American City” -- tonight from 6:30 to 8:00pm at the 14th Street Busboys & Poets. The book explores how progressive activists turned a company town into a model for municipal action in the Trump Era.
Here’s today's labor history:
On this date in 1919, the Paris Peace Conference established the Commission on International Labour Legislation to draft the constitution of a permanent International Labour Organization, or ILO. Today, as part of the United Nations, the ILO is charged with drafting and overseeing international labor standards.
Today’s labor quote is by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who helped organize the International Labour Organization's first conference, in 1919. In 1941, Roosevelt, then president of the United States said "I well remember that in those days the ILO was still a dream. To many it was a wild dream. Who had ever heard of Governments getting together to raise the standards of labor on an international plane? Wilder still was the idea that the people themselves who were directly affected - the workers and the employers of the various countries - should have a hand with Government in determining these labor standards."
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