This Labor Day, Americans are giving unions a thumbs-up. It’s not just the hot labor summer, it’s the union advantage—workers who join together in unions have higher pay, better benefits, safer workplaces and more voice on the job than nonunion workers. Those effects are life-changing for workers and their families, but as we know, they have engendered withering attacks on unions.
Worker empowerment is threatening to corporations and politicians that oppose sharing America’s wealth with the workers who create it, and to extremists who fear the progress that is possible when individuals come together. The attacks directed at educators are especially noxious—from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying we teach “filth,” to presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott calling to “break the backs” of teachers unions.
This antagonism toward unions and worker power is out of step with most Americans. New polling for the AFL-CIO shows historic support for unions across party lines, with especially strong support from young Americans. Navigator Research finds that most Americans view teachers unions favorably, including majorities of both parents and nonparents. And more than 50 groups of workers have joined the American Federation of Teachers so far this year—a pace unseen in decades. America knows: It’s better in a union.
At a time when so many forces are spreading fear and division, unions literally unite people. In the face of fear, we have hope. In the face of despair, we have dreams. In the face of silence, we tell our stories. In the face of smears, we offer solutions. We bring people together to be the most powerful we can be.
The AFT is the home of the people who make a difference in other people’s lives. We offer real solutions for kids and communities. We address hard issues like learning loss, loneliness and literacy challenges. We take on the extremists who want to defund public services, dismantle our democracy, destroy public education and demonize the vulnerable, and the corporations that are more concerned about healthcare profits than patients. And we encourage our members to vote so we have leaders who share and fight for our values.
We have each other’s backs—whether it’s winning safe healthcare staffing levels, as we just did in Oregon, or defending educators’ obligation to teach honest history, as we are doing in New Hampshire. We’re there to help with our free trauma counseling benefit for members, and with the 9 million free books and other resources we have distributed to spark the love of reading. And we have helped members save millions of dollars in student debt, freeing them to buy a home, start a family or buy a car. This is what unions do: We care, we fight and we show up.
This Labor Day, let’s recommit to helping working people and their families gain a better life. Whether it’s members of the United Auto Workers or the Writers Guild of America; workers at Starbucks, Amazon or Apple; or you and your fellow members of the AFT—together we can accomplish things that would be impossible on our own.
Thank you for making a difference in the lives of others, and thank you for being a member of our union. We wish you a wonderful Labor Day.
Executive Vice President