“Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.”
John F Kennedy
Today marks the eighteenth anniversary of my employment with AT$T. And more importantly my membership in the Communication Workers of America.
I often said that I was very lucky to have landed this job. One day my son told me that it was not luck that got me here. That it was hard work and determination. And he was right.
But it wasn’t just my hard work and determination. It took a century of activism to allow me the opportunity to make a good living wage, without bias to gender or age. More than one hundred years of hard work and determination by thousands dedicated to the labor movement. People who endured severe punishments and even death to ensure a better today for themselves and a better tomorrow for others.
Many times I have heard a member say “I don’t need the union. I never get in trouble.” I ask these members if they have ever taken sick time and been paid for it? Do you receive overtime pay, Sunday and Holiday premium pay? How about the fact that we have recognized Holidays? Is there a cap on the amount of overtime you are required to work? Do you enjoy vacation and personal time every year? Do you make the same pay as everyone else doing the same job? Did you receive regular progression raises? When you look around your community, are you better off than those working in non-bargained for positions?
As far as the never getting in trouble. Have you ever heard of Just Cause? Without Just Cause a manager could “get you in trouble” whenever they feel like it.
We enjoy all this and more due to years of collective bargaining negotiations. Generations of members fighting for the benefits and protections we have today.
Now it is our turn. We must not let the hard work of our predecessors to have been in vain. We must be determined to preserve all we have gained over the years.
Sisters and Brothers, I ask you to look into the faces of your parents and grandparents. Look into the faces of your spouse, your siblings, your co-workers and neighbors. Look into the faces of your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Unite to honor the hard work of those before us. Unite to better the status quo today. Unite to secure a solid future for those that follow us.