May Day: When Rules Don’t Apply

Unions have got a bad reputation in North America for reasons I don’t understand. Counterintuitively, large corporations have convinced millions of workers that their jobs are negatively impacted by workers helping each other. It’s been proven that when CEOs talk about how much they make their average wage goes up; those same CEOs don’t want their own workers doing the same. Indeed, silicon valley CEOs went out of their way to ensure that the people they hire cannot even get paid more at other companies.

Today is May Day and a good chance to think about the history and value of the labour movement. We still need to work together today for a better tomorrow and this is a chance to celebrate our successes.

Top executives of leading tech companies secretly agreed among themselves not to hire each other’s employees, thereby restricting wages and job opportunities of the very people to whom they owed their success.

Government investigators discovered the conspiracy and brought charges against the companies, using antitrust law to protect labor rights.

Read more and check out the film.

Unions Help Every Worker Earn More

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Unions have a bad reputation thanks to years of corporate lobbying and companies blaming workers for executive-induced problems. Despite the negative view of unions they have helped all workers get paid more and get more benefits. Research out of the University of Illinois concludes that unions are directly connected to broader worker rights and better wages throughout the economy, meaning that if you’ve never been part of a union you have benefitted from their work.

The unionization-inequality connection remains even when looking only at nonunion members, or at union members in only public or only private sectors, VanHeuvelen said. For instance, the study suggests that nonunion workers would have seen 3 to 7 percent higher wage growth over their careers if not for the decline in the indirect power of unions.

The connection also remains when looking only at workers who have moved – or only those who have not moved – between either industries or regions of the country. It also remains when looking only at the last three decades or only at workers born since 1960.

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Take a Moment and Really Think about Unions

2017 has been anything but a successful year for unions. For a multitude of reasons unions have a bad reputation, although it’s thanks to unions that we have labour rights and weekends. Unions are really good at helping individuals deal with institutions that want to exploit their work; and history has proven this time and time again. So why all the hate to unions? It comes from boomers and earlier generations making unions the scapegoat for problems that unions didn’t cause in the first place. Now that inequality is on the rise the trend is reversing.

Vice recently published that unions are cool again and it might have to do with the fact that millennials are facing precarious employment with low wages. Yes, unions are good to fight inequality and we in North America should rethink how we talk about groups of workers uniting against exploitation.

Union members may have a good understanding of those values and the benefits they receive through collective bargaining, but what about those who aren’t in a union?

One piece of good news for unions is the striking disconnect between generations in how they are viewed—a poll in 2015 showed that 57 percent of millennials think of unions positively, versus only 41 percent of baby boomers. Maybe that’s because memories of unions as corrupt are finally fading. Maybe young people are more open to left-wing politics. Or, it could be that, in today’s era of income stagnation and freelance gigs replacing careers with benefits, millennials recognize that they may need to band together in order to secure a piece of the economic pie.

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