Across every corner of this nation, we have reached a pivotal moment for America’s workers. Unchecked corporate power, pervasive economic inequality, poor wages and benefits, and the continuing decline of the middle class has made millions of America’s workers feel completely left behind. As challenging as these workers’ realities are, it is also clear that America’s workers are fed up and exhausted and are demanding change – collective change.
Given these workers’ dire realities, labor unions now have the highest approval ratings in the past 50 years. Even more significantly, organizing campaigns, and workers coming together to form and join a union, are becoming ubiquitous across countless industries. At the UFCW, we have seen an explosion of workers reaching out to us to make positive and lasting change in the workplace. Inspired to act together, we are also seeing union workers take action, from grocery workers to screenwriters, to fight for higher wages, better benefits, and workplace protections.
This new era of collective action is by no means an accident.
According to The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median union member earns 20 percent more than their nonunion counterpart. They are significantly more likely to have retirement plans, generous medical benefits, and life insurance. Union employers are 25% more likely to offer childcare, and more than half of all union members know their schedule over four weeks in advance. At a time when CEO and executive pay has exploded, workers who make the companies run are tired of hearing the excuses, and they are rightfully demanding change.
We are also seeing this renewed spirit of organized action ignite at historic levels across Millenial and Gen Z workers who place significant importance on both economic and social equality. These generations are seeing what those of us across labor have long known – a good union contract is a force for social good. In fact, studies have shown that a union contract is one of the most effective tools for eliminating wage gaps and uplifting workers of color and women on the job.
It is this desire for change that is also driving workers to stand up to corporate power like never before. It can be seen in the UFCW workers standing against the proposed megamerger between the Kroger and Albertsons corporations, the writers and actors guilds standing up against huge Hollywood studios, or the UAW standing up against the Big Three automakers. Union workers across states and industries are making clear that they will not sit quietly as others decide their economic and social fates.
It is clear that a new era of collective action is just beginning. Regardless of what state one may live in, or what political ideology a worker may subscribe to, every worker wants to earn a good wage, have the means to raise children, buy a home, retire comfortably, and set their family up for success. These are the universal tenets of a better life shared across the middle class, and these are the conditions that America must renew if we are to rebuild the middle class and create a new American economy that works for everyone.
What is clearer now than ever before, is that the future of America will not be determined by the CEOs, shareholders, hedge funds, or by politicians. It will be decided by workers who speak up, and stand for lasting change together. Workers are speaking louder than ever before, and it is high time that those in power start listening. Because on this Labor Day, and every day, workers’ voices will not be silenced.