by Collin – Local 6
Since their inception, trade unions and their members have pushed for worker rights, increased wages, safety, security and benefits for workers. While employers have viciously used any means political, legal or other in order to prevent, disrupt or destroy collective bargaining, labour unions have largely been responsible for the general improvement in wages, job safety and job security in the industrialized world. This in turn, has also contributed to a higher standard of living.
In some of the countries with the highest standards of living we see a majority of organized workers in the workforce. Several Scandanavian countries have some of both the highest union membership among paid workers -Denmark 69%, Sweden 71% and very high human development indexes. (As of 2010 – “Trade union,” Wikipedia) Unionization in these countries isn’t leading to less opportunity and investment, as anti union propagandists would have people believe, but to an improved society and standard of living.
Companies and some politicians disseminate rumours of corruption and lazy unionized employees to undermine efforts to organize and sway public opinion against unionization, but unions seek to protect workers, and raise dignity, not cheat people or companies out of anything and not to promote unprofessional behaviour.
While so many of our politicians whose voices are paid for are now fighting for the interests of unethical corporations and money for the few richest, it is as important as ever to be aware of our working conditions and protect what we and all the unionized workers before us have fought for. As we move through tumultuous times economically and politically, we have to help ourselves by helping each other. When people say nothing, the situation won’t improve.
Being in a union and being involved with a union are two very different things. We have many members in our union as in many other labour unions, who are content to let what “the union” and management decide go unchallenged and in some cases unnoticed. This is as bad as not voting come election day. All it takes is a few minutes to send an email or ask some questions of other members.
Active members, beleaguered as they sometimes are, are our ears, eyes, hands and voices. They fight for us and are responsible for improving working conditions and benefits. We cannot leave this to the employers alone. It would never happen. This is democracy. It is both our right and responsibility.
So don’t forget that the union is there to help you and you can help yourself by getting involved. Remember to consult your shop stewards, executive members and volunteers. You can join committees and volunteer a little of your own time. It’s easy to do and is empowering.