Thursday, October 1, 2015

Workers seeking respect should look to unions

Despite the picture being painted by some leaders engaged in political posturing, the vast majority of adults are working to earn a living. But it is employers who don't seem to value much of what everyday Americans do on the job.

As an excellent piece in The New York Times today highlights, society is quick to judge people on the work they do and categorize them and their salaries. Often, whether one uses their mind to complete their duties is the deciding factor. And if it is determined that a job is unskilled or low-skilled, any respect or dignity for that worker is thrown out the window:
The labels “low-skilled” or “unskilled” workers — the largest demographic being adult women and minorities — often inaccurately describe an individual’s abilities, but play a powerful role in determining their opportunity. The consequences are not only severe, but incredibly disempowering: poverty-level wages, erratic schedules, the absence of retirement planning, health benefits, paid sick or family leave and the constant threat of being replaced. 
Instead of improved job quality, the rewards for task-oriented workers are pats on the back and the constant encouragement to aspire for something better.
Of course, there are some who value these employees' contributions. The Teamsters and other unions stand up for workers like this everyday because they know these people are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Better pay, benefits and working conditions reward hard-working union workers by allowing them to provide for their families.
That idea isn't popular with corporate America. Some businesses, for instance, are fighting to overturn a National Labor Relations Board ruling in a case brought by Bay Area Teamsters that ruled parent companies can be held responsible for the treatment of temporary or contractor workers at their facilities.
But the benefits of union membership are well-known. The U.S. Labor Department’s own statistics show the median union worker earns more than $200 a week more than the median non-union worker. That’s an extra $10,000 a year that goes into the pockets of union workers. These jobs also offer health benefits and retirement security.
The jobs being done by those at the lower end of the income scale should be valued. By joining a union, workers can help themselves earn the respect and fair pay they're entitled to receive.