This Labor Day…

If you have paid sick or vacation leave, thank unions.

If you get overtime at your job if you work more than forty hours a week, thank unions.

If your kid isn’t working in a sweatshop, thank unions.

If you don’t fear for your life from industrial accidents, thank unions.

If your employer offers you health insurance, thank unions.

If you have holidays off, thank unions.

Politicians and others bash unions all  the time these days. Union-busting is quite popular, especially public sector unions. Scott Walker has ludicrously stated that his experience in destroying unions in Wisconsin meant he would be well equipped to deal with ISIS. In San Jose, the public atmosphere is toxic with rage at the police and firefighter unions. In both cases, there has been a predictable loss of resources: teachers are leaving the profession in droves in Wisconsin, leaving a teacher shortage; the virulently anti-union Measure B caused San Jose to lose cops left and right. (Fortunately, the city government seems to have come to its senses. The attitude of the populace may take a while to change.)

Unions have not been perfect angels. Cases of union mismanagement, and malfeasance, dot labor history like rotten raisins in a loaf of bread. But workers are so much stronger when they are acting in concert, and when things get better for union members they often get better for others.

Organized labor has fought for workers for over a century. In their early days, they sometimes did so with their blood. The gains made are always in danger of being rolled back, however, and without a strong labor movement all of us stand to lose a great deal. It is worth noting that in that mythic time that Republicans seem to want to return to — the 1950s — union membership was three times what it is today.

So, this Labor Day, thank the unions.

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