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Unions Aren’t a Thing of the Past. Unions Are Our Future.

We need legislation that makes it easier for working people to join together in a union, not harder

"When I think about how being a part of a strong union has changed not only my life but the lives of so many working people I’m grateful." (Photo: Getty)

"When I think about how being a part of a strong union has changed not only my life but the lives of so many working people I’m grateful." (Photo: Getty)

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I underestimated how much anti-worker extremist groups really hate organizations that empower working people. After all, I have a good union job. Plus, my employer respects and supports collective bargaining

Five U.S. Supreme Court justices reminded the country on June 27 that groups like the Freedom Foundation not only detest labor unions; they want them to be a thing of the past.

However, working people are more determined than ever to continue to fight for our right to stand together in unions now and in the future. And we’re calling on the men and women we elect to municipal, state and federal offices to stand beside us.

We need legislation that makes it easier for working people to join together in a union, not harder.  

Some federal lawmakers have already stepped up to the plate by introducing multiple labor bills, including the recent Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, to help working people stand together to fight for higher wages, respect on the job and health care and retirement benefits.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), would make it easier for secretaries, school food service managers, trash collectors and other Americans working in public sector to form unions regardless of the state they live in.

We need more bills like this to help combat the effects of decades of attacks on working people funded by billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests. The Freedom Foundation, Koch Brothers and others have tried to dehumanize public servants so that people don’t always see that we’re one of them.

We’re working parents like Nicole Jackson of Pennsylvania who are just trying to provide a better life for our children. When Nicole didn’t have the support of a union, she was fired by an employer for being sick during a difficult pregnancy.

We’re older people like Jim Betts of Maine who want the opportunity to retire with dignity after years of hard work, playing by the rules and saving for the future. Jim and his wife both have chronic health conditions, which require very expensive medications. The health insurance benefits they fought for as members of the Maine State Employees Associations-SEIU Local 1989 allows them to enjoy a modest retirement and time with their grandchildren.

We are also Millennials, like graduate workers at public colleges and universities, who want good, union jobs so we can build a solid foundation for the future.

When working people are able to stand together in unions, we’re able to achieve these goals and much more. Strong unions also help communities thrive by raising competitive wages and empowering working people to hold their elected officials accountable for good jobs, better schools and safe neighborhoods.

I remember those days when I didn’t have a union job. It was scary.

Joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) provided me with support, job security and benefits like paid sick leave. When I needed to have surgery, I was able to afford it and take off of work to recover thanks to the benefits my co-workers and I were able to win in our contracts.

Being a union member has also provided me with emotional support on the job. I have gone to work everyday knowing that I had a place to speak up for myself as well as my colleagues.

When I think about how being a part of a strong union has changed not only my life but the lives of so many working people I’m grateful. I’m also angry that the Supreme Court has made it easier for anti-worker extremists to rig the economy further by dividing working people.

We won’t let any court case stand in the way of our fight for the good, union jobs that our communities need; nor will we support any elected officials who don’t fight to ensure these jobs are a part of our future.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Monika Roberts

Monika Roberts is a member of SEIU Local 500 and a soon-to-be retired administrative secretary for Montgomery County Public Schools.

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