Every Worker Deserves A Union

“We cannot reach our full potential if we are understaffed, overextended, exhausted, and burned-out,” said the labor union Starbucks Workers United.  200+ of 8,953 Starbucks-operated stores in the U.S. have unionized since Dec. 12, 2021.

Labor unions are absolutely vital to a functioning and flourishing society.  Unionizing grants workers job security, reasonable hours, fair wages and raises, good retirement plans and healthcare, among many other things.  But, most importantly, it gives workers a voice, which ultimately leads to having more power over their own lives. Every worker deserves to be a part of a union.  

Right now 71% of Americans support the unionization of workers, according to the Gallup organization.  This figure is the highest that union support has been since 1965 and is heavily influenced by the tremendous victories by workers at huge companies such as Amazon and Starbucks, as well as by railroad workers.  

However, according to CNBC, “For decades, union membership has been on the decline. Yet, in the last few months, workers have been organizing at a pace this country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression.”

The percentage of unionized workers in general is in direct contrast with this.

The Pew Research Center states exactly how much union membership has declined from the eighties to last year: “The share of U.S. workers who belong to a union has fallen since 1983 when 20% of American workers were union members. In 2021 10.3% of U.S. workers were in a union.”

Amazon Labor Union said on their website that unionization is so vital for them because “Amazon workers know the only way we’re going to pressure the company into treating us with respect is by uniting under one banner and exercising our right to come together as an independent union.”

However, certain unions are more controversial than that figure may imply.  A prime example is the Chicago teachers union.  Made up of over 25,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians,  the CTU is an extremely powerful and influential force in Chicago.  But, mainly because of how their frequent work stoppages affect the students of the third-largest school district in the U.S., many have criticized the union.  

In January, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) canceled classes for five days because of a walkout by CTU teachers.  This was toward the beginning of the Omicron variant’s exposure in the U.S. and teachers felt that it was unsafe to hold in-person classes under those conditions.  

However, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was very opposed to the demands of the teachers’ union- to stay out of classrooms until Jan. 18 (the walkout began Jan. 5) or until the city’s test positivity rate dropped below 10 percent. It was the union’s third work stoppage in 27 months, and some, including Lightfoot, considered it illegal according to their union contract.  Because of my lack of legal knowledge, I won’t comment on whether the walkout was illegal.  

The CTU and Lightfoot eventually came to a compromise after, as Lightfoot phrased it, a “hard-fought discussion,” according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Many critics of the CTU claimed that the walkout was unfair to students because it prevented them from going to school.  However, it was Lightfoot that argued against making up the five lost days, and the union that argued for making up the days, so I find it unreasonable to assume that teachers were trying to keep kids out of school when they were also fighting to make sure that kids didn’t lose any school days because of the walkout.  Lightfoot eventually conceded.  

It is often in female-dominated industries where unions are criticized.  When teachers or nurses choose to unionize or exercise their power as a union, many consider it “wrong” because people need teachers and nurses to be at work.  

But in male-dominated industries, this doesn’t seem to be a problem.  So do these essential workers in female-dominated industries not deserve job security and fair and equitable treatment by their employers?