What Are Unions?
Unions are all about workers joining together to improve their jobs. The U.S. Government gives workers the right to form or join a labor union of their choosing in order to improve their working conditions. Each year, hundreds of thousands of workers successfully organize a union where they work.
Labor unions are built on the simple principle of solidarity, or unity, between workers. By sticking together and organizing to solve problems, workers can do more to improve their working conditions than they can alone. Government statistics show that union workers have a weekly median income over $160 more than non-union workers. That translates into $8,320 more each year for union members. Union members also enjoy more vacation time, health coverage, sick time—and a host of other benefits too numerous to mention—compared to their non-union counterparts.
The Powerful Voice of Working People
Today, millions of workers belong to many different kinds of unions. Nurses, truck drivers, police officers, clerical workers, professional athletes, and countless other kinds of workers have formed unions to improve their working life. When an individual joins or supports a union, they make it stronger by contributing union dues and by doing volunteer work. In turn, all the unions work together by pulling together their financial assests and volunteers to try to solve the many problems none of them could solve alone. This pooling of resources gives ordinary working people an extraordinary voice in society—from the local planning board all the way up to the President of the United States.
However, many powerful political and economic forces are trying to snuff out the voice of workers and undermine their economic interests. Today, corporations have an unprecendented amount of power not seen since the late 1800s. As a consequence, the many political and economic gains working people made in the 20th century are getting stripped away at an alarming rate. Now, more than ever, workers need to organize and empower themselves to counterbalance the unhealthy influence of unchecked corporate power and profiteering.
Get Inolved, Get Educated
If you are already a worker in a union, we strongly encourage you to take an active role in your union. Learn all you can about your contract and the structure of your local union. Go to your regular meetings and work with your leadership to build your union strong. Attend conferences and read books about unions and the vital role they play in keeping our economy moving. Remember that unions are only as strong as the workers standing behind them.
If you don't have a union where you work, why not organize one? The Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO is a good place to start asking questions about how to go about doing it. We can point you in the right direction and offer general advice. But you don't have to be a union member to support the work of labor unions. Many unions play a very active role in the community and are always looking for people to help them give working people, union or not, a voice.
Thanks for taking the time to read this brief overview of what unions are about. Please feel free to explore this and other union web sites to get a better sense of who union members are, what we stand for, and how we work. We hope to see you soon at one of our actions or meetings. Solidarity forever!