When my grandfather Sanseverino first arrived in the United States from Italy in the 1940s, he worked at a factory. He joined his factory’s union, which not only gave him representation at work, but also benefits and negotiated regular wage increases that propelled our family into the middle class and home ownership. My brother, cousin, and I have all been able to join unions and reap the benefits as well. We are now a union family.
But the rich elite are trying to take this away and further rig the economy against hardworking working families like mine.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule any day in the Janus v. AFSCME case, a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs seek to allow union members in the public sector to quit paying dues while still enjoying the benefits of union representation — free riding on the backs of dues-paying members. Working people across the country have held actions to put the rich and powerful behind this case on notice: American workers will not be divided by any court case or other attack on our unity.
Many workers who don’t have a union yet are still fighting hard to join together. Fast-food workers, airport attendants, homecare workers, and other hardworking women and men have united to demand $15 an hour and a union to fight back against unjust and unsafe management practices. It’s a movement that isn’t about one workplace, or one job, it’s about creating good jobs that lift up entire communities. Now isn’t the time to make it harder to join together for power in numbers through a union.
According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, union members earn 10 percent to 20 percent higher wages than those who work similar, but nonunion, jobs. The impact is even greater for women, Latinos, and African-Americans. The higher wage standard also boosts annual pay for all workers by about $1,558 in states that have a larger proportion of union members.
It’s gains like those that make rich and powerful extremists nervous. It’s why they’re conceiving well-funded campaigns to divide us as workers and limit the power in numbers we have together in our union. This attack isn’t just about our union strength; it’s an attack on economic equality in our country.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, we must continue to fight to ensure that the United States remains a country where union jobs are protected as they pave the way for scores of Americans to achieve financial security and reach the middle class. As the Supreme Court and rich, corporate interests aim to weaken the power of public-sector unions in our nation, it’s important for our lawmakers in New Jersey to take action to ensure unions are able to communicate with workers and grow our numbers.
All workers should have the opportunity to achieve the American dream, just as my grandfather did for my family decades ago. No court case, no legislation, no propaganda campaign can stop us. Together, we rise.