These days the only time you read about labor unions is when a sports union or public employee union is in the news. For example, the National Football League Players Association was recently in the news because they prevailed, on behalf of Tom Brady, in getting his four game suspension overturned.
Public employee unions are usually in the news for not such good reasons. Like how they were beaten in Wisconsin by Governor and now-Presidential candidate Scott Walker, who “took them on” because they refused certain of the concessions that they demanded. Or because some abusive police officer was reinstated after the union went to bat on his behalf.
But unions have played a very important role in all of our lives. They really did bring us the five day work week, and overtime, and vacation and personal time, child labor laws, health benefits, unemployment insurance, workplace safety, and all kinds of other benefits that we now take for granted.
And yes, over the years, unions have made strategic mistakes, sometimes been unreasonable, and sometimes were overtaken by corruption. As if corporations have not been. Evan Horowitz has a nice piece in the Boston Globe on the state of labor unions today.
On this, our annual labor day, it might not be such a bad thing to appreciate the things that unions have brought us, and to give them a second look.
A belated comment, but a comment all the same.
I am from the UK and I wanted to wish you a happy labour day right back. Over here our only whiff of a labour day is May Day (International Workers Day). But the importance and power of union action hit home this summer as trade unions representing the drivers of the London Underground brought the city to a standstill repeatedly when talks with the Government about getting a fairer settlement vis-a-vis the proposal for new night-tube services collapsed.
In stark contrast, independent barristers – without the assistance of a trade union – have attempted to strike by introducing a ‘no returns’ policy on cases and picketing outside of crown courts, in response to the governments vendetta against legal aid work in criminal courts. Their lack of unity was accentuated by the sheer force of the Tube strikes and the disparity in effectiveness has demonstrated how important trade unions are when industrial action is on the table.
So again happy labour (or, should I say labor?) day America!