It’s 2019 and Unions Still Matter (a Lot)

Last week, the Michigan Carpenters announced plans to build a $30 million training center in metro Detroit. The facility will offer classroom instruction and job training to Detroit residents through a free apprenticeship program designed to give them the skills they need to succeed in the trade.

This endeavor is a significant investment in the community, especially in the context of Michigan’s skills gap and the continued struggles of working Detroiters—and it’s just the latest example of why unions matter in the present day.

Unfortunately, organized labor has suffered numerous attacks at the hands of conservatives who want to take power away from working people. In 2013, then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed anti-union “Right to Work” legislation as 12,000 people protested outside. Despite its name, “Right to Work” has nothing to do with individual freedom and everything to do with undermining unions’ ability to organize workers and fight for better pay and benefits.

Last year, the Supreme Court case of Janus v. AFSCME effectively nationalized “Right to Work,” preventing unions from collecting fees from non-members who benefit from their negotiations. This policy disincentivizes union membership by allowing “free riders” to reap all the benefits of union contract negotiations without contributing.

Even after Janus, corporate interests are still working to chip away at organized labor. Their next move: preventing unions from representing non-members. By further dividing workers, this change would dilute their bargaining power and give employers even more control over negotiations.

Corporate executives aren’t the only ones looking to benefit from attacks on unions. Conservative think tanks and political operatives across the country are also open about their agenda to “defund and defang” unions as a means to gain political power. The less power unions have, the less their support for candidates who fight for workers’ rights will matter—and the right is more than willing to throw workers under the bus to get more of their candidates elected.

Since the beginning of organized labor in the United States, unions have fought to give all workers a fair deal by pushing for higher pay and better benefits. As income inequality continues to grow, unions’ role in opposing corporate greed and giving workers a seat at the table is more important than ever—and anyone who cares about workers’ rights should be fighting alongside them.

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