Celebrating the Union Advantage on Labor Day

It’s no secret that Labor Day looks a little different this year. But on a day where we still might enjoy time with our loved ones or go to a socially distanced picnic, let’s not forget the purpose of this holiday—to celebrate the importance and struggles of America’s working people.

This year working people have been tested in ways that once seemed unimaginable.  Chicago Women in Trades wants to take this opportunity to acknowledge those challenges and to commend our Tradeswomen for their focus, hard work and resiliency.  We also want to express our support for ALL essential workers—from the nurses who hold the patient’s hand when there is no one else to do so—to the teachers who struggle to teach our children, to grocery store workers, meat factory workers and sanitation workers.  We have learned so much about what is—and isn’t—essential. 

Women in the skilled trades understand the value of being in a union, even while there is still much work to be done to make our unions equitable.  We understand how important it is to have a voice at work and protections in the workplace.  We understand how important living wages, healthcare, and an opportunity to retire with dignity are to all working people.  It’s often said that if you’re having a good weekend, thank the labor movement. And while this year has challenged working people and our entire country, there’s never been a year where the union advantage has been more clear. From demanding adequate personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses to demanding (and winning) stricter safety guidelines for grocery stores, solidarity has been fundamental in protecting America’s workers through this crisis.

Despite COVID-19 highlighting the vast social, economic, and racial inequalities in this country, the pandemic is also shedding light on another crucial difference in economic and health security: the benefits of belonging in a union.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, just 67% of nonunion private-sector workers had access to health care benefits in 2019, compared to 94% of union members. The union difference is real. Collective bargaining leads to benefits such as paid leave, job security, and wages high enough to sustain a family.

This Labor Day, let’s honor the hard work of our union sisters, brothers, and friends. When working people come together, we make things better for everyone, especially in a crisis.