Weekly Resistance: 5 Labor Day Actions to Support Workers

Hello, gentle readers! Labor Day always seems to mark the end of summer, and while you may celebrate with barbecues and community events, I thought it appropriate to commemorate the origins of the holiday.

After all, Labor Day isn’t just any day off: It’s a federal holiday dating back to 1894 — and it’s all about American workers.

2017 has been a challenging year for labor in America, as the Trump administration pushes for radical changes that will impact workers’ rights. This week, I’ve rounded up five actions you can take to better conditions for workers in your community.

Check here to find and contact your representative, and you can find your senators’ contact information here. Looking for local officials? This tool will help you locate them. Or you can find them in person at a town hall!

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1. Fight for $15

Across the country, workers have been agitating for a $15 minimum wage, arguing that wages are not keeping pace with inflation. Whether you’re slinging burgers or trading stocks, you deserve an income that supports you and your family.

Know:

  • Washington, D.C. has a $15 minimum wage, while the states of California and New York are employing a stepped increase method to reach $15 within the next few years. Individual municipalities may have minimum wages higher than that of their state.
  • Federal minimum wage is $7.25.
  • Some workers may make subminimum wage, including tipped employees — like waitstaff and disabled people.

Contact: your state legislators, if you don’t live in a state with $15 minimum wage. Push them to introduce a bill to raise the minimum wage and eradicate the subminimum or “wait wage.” Note that raising the minimum wage has economic benefits, and a stepped increase would allow small businesses to adjust. Also consider asking local officials to raise the wage preemptively.

Support: The National Employment Law Project and Business for a Fair Minimum Wage are promoting wage increases.

A woman holds up a sign in the form of a giant burger requesting a 15 minimum wage.

Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

2. Resist “Right-to-Work” Legislation

So-called “right-to-work” laws are sweeping conservative states, and they harm workers and union organizers — despite the misleading name. 28 states have picked up this trend, many using cookie-cutter legislation.

Know:

  • These laws require union agreements to cover all employees, regardless of whether they belong in the union. They also prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-members.
  • This policy weakens unions, effectively allowing people to reap the benefits of collective bargaining without contributing.
  • Existing legislation, the Taft-Hartley Act, already bans workplaces from compelling workers to join a union.

Contact: your state legislators. If your state doesn’t have such a law, ask them to oppose one when and if it’s proposed. If a law has already been enacted, ask them to push for a repeal. In states where proposals are headed for the ballot, consider joining opposition groups to help them defeat the ballot measure.

Support: Your local union(s) may be involved in activities to resist right-to-work legislation.

3. Demand Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave for the arrival of a child or a medical emergency benefits everyone, but only three states currently offer it. Family leave policies are often inadequate, forcing people back to work early to make up for lost wages and to avoid being fired.

Know:

Contact: your legislators: Ask them for a comprehensive paid family leave bill that supports parents of all genders, including adoptive parents. It should also provide options for people who need to take time off for caregiving in the wake of illness or injury.

Support: A Better Balance and Moms Rising both focus on this issue.

Waste Management workers on strike.

Photo credit: Brooke Anderson

4. Protect Worker Safety Funding

Agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, active on the state and federal level, play an important role in developing and enforcing policies that keep people safe at work. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission addresses sexual harassment and discrimination, issues that also impact worker safety.

Know:

  • Trump’s proposed budget calls for cuts to a number of federal agencies, including OSHA.
  • OSHA, like other federal agencies, has already been directed to delay the development and implementation of regulations.
  • The administration has repeatedly indicated that it doesn’t believe discrimination is a problem, suggesting that anti-discrimination protections and activities are unnecessary.

Contact: your state and federal legislators. Ask them to fully fund agencies and departments that promote worker health and welfare, as these measures benefit everyone.

Support: Organizing for Action and Worksafe are fighting budget cuts to occupational health entities.

5. Join a Picket Line

Unions are constantly organizing, and turnout from supportive members of the public can help them spread their message. You might also learn some interesting information about your community members along the way.

Know:

  • Not all pickets are strikes. Some are “informational,” allowing the regular conduct of business to continue while educating the public about an issue of concern. 
  • If you’re shy about picketing with union members, you can support in other ways — including sending food, helping produce signs and educational materials, providing administrative assistance and contacting businesses and local officials to ask them to take action.
  • Unions don’t enjoy striking: It’s a measure of last resort that means all reasonable avenues of negotiation have failed.

Contact: Local union leaders can tell you when and where informational pickets are planned. Strikes are often executed in a matter of days, so try keeping an eye on the news or union websites to see when a strike has been declared.

Support: your local union!

Take on a mini-challenge: Patrick Pizzella, Trump’s Deputy Secretary of Labor nominee, is not a fan of worker rights. Take the time to call your senators, and tell them that you don’t want a man with a history of promoting sweatshops to serve in a key position at the Labor Department.

Photo credit: UFCW Local 400

38 comments

Mike R
Mike R15 days ago

Thanks

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees18 days ago

Unions are force therefor they do not align with true liberal (progressive) values which are rooted in Liberty. You are not a progressive or liberal if Liberty is not one of your core values. You are a Neo-Liberal, no different than the majority of Republicans being Neo-Cons.
Wake up and take a honest look in the mirror.
What are your core values?
What do you stand for?

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees18 days ago

Brian, yes CEO's are greedy after all they are human. I do work for a non-union company and have done projects for union companies. I've seen how they keep bad workers from getting fired. Unions make sure everyone is paid the same, which is great for the low performers as they get paid more than they would in a free market. On the flip side the high performers are paid less, they are persuaded to lower there performance so they don't make their union coworkers look bad.

In a free market nobody is exploited, everyone works voluntarily. Market competition forces companies to offer more than the completion either through wages or otherwise. No company would stay in business long if they exploited their workers.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson19 days ago

Thank you!

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Winn A
Winn A19 days ago

I'm so glad I'm in a union!

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Brian F
Brian F19 days ago

Eric L Unions are needed to keep greedy corporations like Walmart, where the CEO makes more in one hour than the employees make in a year, from exploiting workers. You should apply to work there, since you hate unions so much, and think that worker exploitation is wonderful.

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees19 days ago

As I always say there are better ways to help people than pricing them out of jobs. Real tax reform would do more to help workers bring home a bigger paycheck than all 5 of these ideas. All without using force.

Liberty is real progress, not Tyranny.

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees19 days ago

I've been in the manufacturing industry for 20 years and the unions have always been a problem, never part of the solution. I've seen unions vote to close the plant they worked in rather than take a pay cut to remain competitive. I've hear many horror stories from people that saw first hand how inefficient unions have made getting work down. We see all the time in the news where public sector unions support bad apples with teachers and the police.

If unions want to remain relevant they need to re-invent themselves or they will find all their workers out of jobs.

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees19 days ago

"3. DEMAND PAID FAMILY LEAVE"

Wrong again, this should not be forced. It should be voluntary, a company will offer it if they think it gives them an advantage in hiring the people they want to hire. And let's not forget there is no free lunch, it all factors into the total cost of an employee. No company will stay in business for long if the cost of a higher is greater than the return.

Economics 101

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees19 days ago

"2. RESIST “RIGHT-TO-WORK” LEGISLATION"

Wrong again, nobody should be forced to pay union extortion fees much of which gets funneled to statist politicians. How would you feel if your employer decided to deduct a % of your paycheck to donate to a politician you oppose?

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