This holiday season, remember to give thanks to the labor movement for its historic and ongoing struggle to improve the lives of working Americans and to fight for our society’s bedrock principles of fairness, equality and democracy.
Labor’s pivotal role in protecting all American workers is why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong believer in unions. Labor gives workers a strong voice so they can demand a “fair share of the economic growth they helped create.” Labor has also led the fight for better wages, fringe benefits, total compensation, pay inequality and workplace protections for all working people, regardless of whether they belong to unions.
Here are five ways in which unions have improved our society and your working lives:
The weekend. If not for labor unions, you could still be working 61 hours a week like in 1870.
Fair wages. Unions have successfully fought to elevate pay for low- and middle-wage workers. They also “set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow.”
Employer-provided health care. In 1935, only about 2 million workers had private health insurance. By 1965 – thanks to labor’s steady growth during the post-war years – nearly 75 percent of the population was covered by some kind of private health insurance.
Banning child labor. Labor’s fight to ban child labor began as early as 1832, when New England unions condemned the practice. Unions kept intensifying their struggle until Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.
Paid leave. The labor movement was instrumental in persuading employers to provide paid leave. Unionized workers get 26 percent more vacation time and 14 more total paid leave compared to nonunion employees.
To learn more about labor’s impact on your life, share this Facebook post. Want even more? Check out this short video: