Faces of Labor: This is Who We Are

, proud Union Member of The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America  

It must be easier if they don’t have to see the families they seek to destroy. That’s the only explanation I can think of when I hear about the latest campaigns to annihilate retirement security for millions, Republican lawmakers’ efforts to push legislation that will make it harder for workers to stand together and organize, and a conservative presidential candidate who said teachers’ unions are worthy of a punch in the face.

It simply must be easier for them to never see our faces. It has to be easier to hear “union” and see a powerful mass of faceless people…or to not really see us at all.  It makes sense. Dismantling a union has always been good for the boss. A recent Facebook post by Jens Rushing, a paramedic in Texas went viral for a reason. It tapped into what’s been harming the middle class for decades: as attacks on workers grow and unions shrink so does the middle class.

Rushing wrote:

“And that's exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don't realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It's in the bosses' interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s also in their interest to keep folks thinking that unions are the problem. Even while most people think income inequality is an issue in our country, a recent poll found that 43% of Americans think the decline in unions is a “good thing.” It sounds to me like the wrong people have far too many of my fellow Americans forgetting what a union really is.

When I hear the word “union,” I can imagine folks from different walks of life deciding to stand together to fight for something better: a better workplace, a living wage, a chance to have a conversation with their boss and be taken seriously. I see my mom, a third grade teacher who spent weeks during the summer preparing her classroom for the first day of school. I see my local grocery store clerks who are always happy to greet me and chat when I’m checking out. I see our friendly UPS driver who walks faster than anyone else I’ve ever seen yet still makes an effort to say hello with a smile when he sees me on the street. I could write a book about all the faces I see when I hear the word “union.”

A union is those workers and so many more standing together. I don’t say that lightly. Standing together takes courage. The same kind of courage that built the great American middle class from the ground up. Our parents and grandparents and their unions fought the hard fight for our 40 hour work week, paid vacations, and wages that were once the envy of the world.

Dehumanizing union workers is in the best interest of the very people who stand to gain from workers losing those fundamental rights: CEOs and Wall Street millionaires and the DC bureaucrats they bankroll.

We’re not going to let them get away with it. Leading up to Labor Day this year, we’re going to celebrate workers. We’re going to show who they really are: our friends, our neighbors, and our family. 

Follow the hashtag #facesoflabor and get to know us. 

Want to submit a post for consideration for Faces of Labor? Email info@calaborfed.org.