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Vicki Shabo, Vice President

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Stand Up for Workers and Unions This Labor Day

September 1, 2017 | Workplace Fairness | Work and Family

Cross-posted from Medium.

Labor Day has historically been a time to celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions of working people. But this Labor Day is markedly different. Because as the Trump administration continues its despicable attacks on the rights of women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, communities of color and many others, it’s also dismantling core protections for working people and trying to destroy workers’ ability to join together in unions. And each time it succeeds, workers, businesses, communities and our economy suffer.

That’s why working people and organizations across the country are coming together this weekend to make their voices heard. Together, we’re demanding that the Trump administration treat working people and families with dignity and respect, especially workers who are paid low wages — who care for children and seniors, cook and serve food, and keep communities healthy and safe. We are standing up and speaking out to remind our networks and elected officials that America needs strong workplace protections — and strong unions.

Labor unions have a long, proud history of improving wages, benefits and working conditions in this country. From ending child labor to the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, overtime pay, employer-based health care and much more, unions have redefined what it means to have a “good job.” Unions have led efforts to win and protect the Affordable Care Act, raise the minimum wage, and combat poverty, racism and inequality. In short, unions have established protections and raised the bar in ways that help all of us.

The benefits of being in a union are significant too. On average, union workers are paid 13.2 percent more than nonunion workers with similar occupations, education and experience. The wage gap between union women and men is just six cents, compared to 22 cents for nonunion women and men. Nearly nine in 10 union workers have paid sick days, compared to seven in 10 nonunion workers. And 94 percent of union workers have health care benefits through their employers, compared to just 66 percent of nonunion workers.

The “union difference” is real, with obvious benefits for working families and our economy. Yet unions are facing serious threats and, in addition to legal challenges and so-called “right to work” laws, the Trump administration seems hell-bent on threatening unions and rolling back workers’ rights. On Tuesday night, for example, the administration blocked an initiative that would have made it easier to identify and root out pay discrimination — a blatant attack on fair pay for women and people of color.

The president’s budget proposal also made his anti-worker agenda clear. In addition to slashing funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and other essential programs, he proposed eliminating a major Labor Department office tasked with enforcing civil rights, promoting workplace diversity, and advancing equal pay among federal contractors. And he proposed to cut by 75 percent funding for the Women’s Bureau — the only federal office devoted to women’s success at work. Fortunately, Congress looks poised to reject that proposal.

As if that weren’t enough, the president, Labor Secretary Acosta and a federal court are also undermining updates to overtime pay protections made through an Obama administration rule. The badly needed, long overdue changes were designed to end the days when people who are paid poverty wages could be forced to work more than 40 hours per week without any additional — or adequate — compensation. Now, the estimated 12.5 million workers, including 6.4 million women, who would have benefited could lose that right to overtime pay.

It’s time to make our voices heard. The Labor Department must appeal the recent federal court ruling blocking the overtime rule and, separately, maintain the reasonable changes it was set to make. Until September 25, each of us can submit comments to the department that make clear we oppose every effort to deny or reduce overtime pay for millions of working people and families. With so much at stake — amidst so many other horrible actions from the president and his administration — it is a meaningful way to show support for workers this Labor Day.


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