By Rick Moyle
While recently sitting on the panel of a television program called “Ethical Perspectives on the News,” which airs at 11 a.m. every Sunday on KCRG-TV9, I was asked what a union is.
My response was that a union is a group of employees who come together to collectively bargain for wages, workplace safety and other work-related items. This statement was true but very shortsighted. Out of respect for the other panelists' time, I kept my response very short. So now, I would like to elaborate on what a union is.
A union is so much more than workers going to the table with a company to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that the workers and the company can live with for a set amount of time.
A union is more than a group of people who fight for safe working conditions and livable wages for all workers. It is more than an organization that strives to assure that working people have a fair shot at advancement and a chance to earn a livable wage.
A union is more than the people who helped bring you the weekend, vacation, retirement, child labor laws, the 40-hour workweek, workers' compensation, wage equality, overtime pay, Family Medical Leave Act, Social Security, Medicare, Labor Day, holiday pay, severance pay and many more pro-worker policies.
Unions are your neighbors, cousins, brothers, sisters, parents and friends. Union workers still are the backbone of this country that makes the wheels turn every single day.
I say “still” because some of the wealthiest people in this country have made a hefty effort to obscure the facts. They have said that unions once held a place in our working societies but no more. That unions are run by thugs who care only for profit. That employers do not mistreat their workers any more, so there isn't a need for workers to organize. Those telling you this have compromised the facts.
If unions fade away, the working class rights in this country soon will follow. Labor laws will perish and we will revert to a darker time in our country's existence — just research “Triangle Shirt Factory” and you will know what I mean.
With the stroke of a pen, everything we now have as working class people could be gone, and not a union left to contest it.
A union is you. It is me. It is the ideology that we have a voice; that we all have the right to due process.
A union is the ability to say, “I am a human being and I have certain inevitable rights as an American.” It is a feeling of self-respect and the knowledge that I am my brother's keeper.
A union is the logic that we have responsibilities to help the less fortunate among us. It is the passion that drives us to do the right thing so our world will be a better place.
I challenge you to research the labor movement in this country and conclude that unions are no longer needed. I am sure you will understand that people coming together for an overall greater good will always be a need.
Rick Moyle is executive director, Hawkeye Labor Council AFL-CIO, Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org