Union is Strength
The government’s annual report on union membership in the United States didn’t necessarily include any big surprises. Published each year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most recent document showed a decline in overall union membership (undoubtedly caused at least in part by the pandemic) and an increase in the percentage of workers belonging to unions. That’s because more unrepresented workers were laid off when the pandemic hit (naturally, since there are more non-union workers).
We report on the specific numbers elsewhere in this edition, but a couple of items jump out at me. One, union members continue to earn more money on average and enjoy better benefits than their unrepresented counterparts. This has been the case with every report for as long as I can remember.
But, secondly, the overall number of union members would be a lot higher if there weren’t so much illegal interference in many organizing campaigns. Reliable polling from the last few years has shown historically high, favorable views of organized labor. Most people would join a union if given a chance.
Yet the membership numbers basically fluctuate only a little from year to year, sometimes increasing, sometimes declining.
The remedy is contained in legislation recently reintroduced in both the House and Senate. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act aims to level the playing field in representation elections. The reason our country needs this bill is because our labor laws have slowly but steadily eroded over many decades. It has become the norm for employers to get away with bending or breaking the rules during organizing campaigns, to the point where it’s blatantly unfair to the employees. This isn’t about forcing people to join a union, because no one wants that. But workers should have a fair chance to decide for themselves, free from threats by the company, free from captive-audience meetings, and free from retribution by the employer.
We have a real opportunity to get this legislation passed, and the AFL-CIO has identified it as a top priority. President Biden, a self-proclaimed “union guy” whom we’ve worked with for many years, supports the bill.
As a topic, labor-law reform probably sounds boring. What’s important, though, is the results it will generate: better wages, safer workplaces, and a stronger voice for all workers.
This is long overdue, and the SIU will do our part to help make it happen.
More on Vaccines
As we all continue learning about COVID-19 vaccines, I’m repeating a message from last month, for anyone who missed it.
There is no doubt the vaccines are effective, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of questions about them. Will we be advised to take them every year? Will they protect against all the different strains of the virus? Like I said, there’s no shortage of questions.
But the vaccines approved by our government work, and that’s why I’ve been signed up and ready to get my shots for a while. I have no personal hesitation whatsoever.
The SIU will take a sensible, fair approach as vaccines become more readily available. We will respect individual rights while also taking the most prudent steps to protect you, your shipmates and your families.
Meanwhile, keep your guard up and follow the safety protocols that probably are becoming second nature by now. I’ve been saying for almost a year, we’ll get through this pandemic together. We’re getting closer and we’ve got to stay vigilant.
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