I have a Mother’s Day gift for the many union moms and grandmas who work hard on the job, at home and in your communities: the children you are raising see the value of your union activism. How do I know? They told us so in the essays they submitted to the AFSCME Family Scholarship competition.
Each year, hundreds of children and grandchildren of AFSCME members write essays about how our union has impacted their lives. Those essays are a powerful reflection of how unions lift up working families and fight for economic justice.
I want to share some of the common threads and moving testimony from this year’s winning essays, which tell us “what AFSCME has meant to our family.”
The first of these themes came through in almost every essay: The union is about having a voice and taking collective action. Alicia is “eternally grateful that my mom can voice her opinions in her workplace.” Jordan says that AFSCME provides “a voice for fairness and that is a value I cherish.” Morgan saw her parents and grandparents use their voices when Michigan enacted right-to-work legislation: the whole family “marched at the state capitol in protest and I helped them make signs.” Diego summarizes it well by writing, “AFSCME has taught my family a life lesson: fight for what you believe in and don’t stop until you achieve it.”
A second common theme in these essays is AFSCME’s role in making our nation better and more just for working people. Students see our union as making the American Dream possible, not just for their parents – but for all. David’s grandmother came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic for a “better life for herself and her family,” and he notes the role of unions in fighting for all working families, “giving us support and embracing us in solidarity.” Winona has seen how the union protects “civil rights for all Americans.” She believes that our union’s commitment to equity and justice stems from the fact that “AFSCME is a melting pot of different ethnicities, races, ages and cultures that enriches every member.” She describes labor unions as “the cornerstone that America was built on.” Lenon pulls it all together by writing: “Unions have taught me many values … I understand the real meaning of solidarity.”
Every single essay included the last common thread: the union is a source of economic security. As Paige put it, “From helping ensure my mom job security to making sure my family has insurance, the union’s collective bargaining helps keep my family thriving and happy.” Rachel writes that her mother is the primary provider for their family, so economic security has made a huge difference in the lives of Rachel and her two siblings, who are both struggling with health challenges. In her essay, Rachel describes a family vacation that met the needs of her whole family to get some much needed emotional and physical relaxation.
Many essay writers described the difference in their families’ lives when their parent went from working nonunion to becoming a part of AFSCME. Their parent gained access to health insurance, sick days and cost of living increases; in other words, direct economic benefits. But there is an important, less tangible difference: Being part of a union makes it possible for parents to be there for our kids. The high school students who wrote these essays noticed that with the security of a union contract, a parent could stop working a second (or third) job and be home for dinner. Or prioritize a medical visit for their child. Or take a personal day to attend a sporting event. As Anastasia writes: “Our family’s happiness in our home is a direct result of the AFSCME’s willingness to fight for the rights of its workers.”
I’m a parent, so I know how much it matters to our kids when we show up – and having a strong union makes that possible. Now that’s a Mother’s Day gift to remember.