Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walter's Corner: Labor's Untold Past...


By: Fred Walter
Executive Vice President


I believe that it’s important that you as members and shop stewards all have a better understanding of the importance that organized labor has played in the development of our great country.

 You know when I was growing up I don’t remember one history book I read in grade school or high school mentioning the Labor movement in it at all. That’s pretty scary considering organized labor played a big part in the development of the America that we all know today.

Organized labor played a vital role in winning social protections such as the Child Labor Laws that prohibited young children, between the ages of 10 and 12, from having to work in coal mines or sweat shops. Without the Labor movement there would likely be no Social Security, no Medicaid, no OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and no Environmental Protection Agency.

The Labor movement was also very active in the Civil Rights Movement regularly walking side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Unions also played a part in bringing generations of hard working Americans into the middle class by negotiating higher wages for their members. Raising the average wage for Union members has also had a positive effect on all working men and women in America because of Labors constant lobbying and support for higher State and Federal Minimum Wage Laws.

 All in all Labor has had a significant impact on our nation’s history, its social standards and the economy. Labor Unions also proved to be a positive force when fighting for the development of dozens of social programs enjoyed by ALL working people in America today. Think about it, without Unions would you have Unemployment Benefits … Workers Compensation laws … the 8 hour work day … the Family & Medical Sick Leave Act … Disability Insurance …. or the 40 hour workweek, which also established overtime for all hours worked over 40?

The Labor movement was also important to the overall culture of this great country. It bothers me more every day that so many working men and women don’t understand how vital a strong labor movement is when trying to maintain a higher standard of living for American workers. The statistics are out there and but they aren’t too easy to find.

The organized worker typically enjoys a higher wage … a Pension … Health and Welfare Benefits … Contract enforcement … respect … dignity … and most importantly representation in the workplace. With all of that being said one question still remains ….

Why is it so hard to organize? I believe it’s because most people were never educated about the benefits of being a Union member. As Union members you ALL have a right to everything that I mentioned today and so much more. Why? Because you earned it! Now you MUST fight for it!

Email comments or questions to Fred Walter at fwalter@ufcw1500.org.

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