Labor Day 2018: Attacks on Unions Intensify, But Workers Are Not Silent

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Scenes from the Labor Day Marches, New York City.

Ekim KILIÇ

New York

Across the country, people from different nationalities presented their culture through the celebrations that took place on Labor Day 2018. During the first week of September, Labor unions also celebrated Labor Day with parades to promote the importance of the hard-work workers are doing.

Labor unions celebrated Labor Day 2018 in a politically challenging atmosphere. Decisions detrimental to unions recently came down, including  AFSCME vs. Janus and Epic Systems Corp. vs Lewis cases, and several strikes from the public and private sectors along with an increase in union membership were hot topics of Labor in this year.

According to an opinion article that was written for CNN by Richard Trumka, the president of AFL-CIO, “In the year since, working people have been doing just that. From airports and hospitals to newsrooms and college campuses, workers are organizing on a scale that I haven’t seen in decades. More than a quarter-million Americans joined unions last year — three-quarters of them under 35. Half of the nonunion workers say they would vote to do the same if given the chance, and Gallup has even pegged unions’ popularity at a 15-year high.”

In New York, where well-organized labor unions met from across the country, union workers marched starting at 10 a.m. on September 8 between 44th st-5th av to 64th st. Specifically, UFT (United Federation of Teachers) and Local 79 were very well represented, reflecting the struggle of their sectors. Susan Carr (61), a member of the UFT, says unions today must go out on the streets because they are the only protection against arbitrary working conditions, stating that they were in solidarity with teachers who struggled statewide. Carr added that their union protection is weaker than in New York and that they have to understand that they are not alone. She ended, in her words, “Union strong, union proud.”

In Hudson Yards, North America’s third largest construction site, the struggle of the Local 79 Construction Workers’ Union is growing. #CountMeIn, which was launched by New York construction workers, is now almost one year old. Workers started to wage their unionization struggle against bosses who prevent unionizing activities in order to make construction workers work precariously and flexibly. Reactions in support of construction workers were reflected on other union workers’ banners. Laborers from New York, who come from different sectors, have expressed their support for the struggle of the construction workers.

Although labor was hit by these supreme court decisions, statewide public school teachers’ wildcat strikes were encouraging for labor unions. Tim Sheard (70), an NY co-chair of the National Writers Union Local 1981, stated that “They were illegal. All the states where they struck it was illegal. And they win against the cops, they win against the governor. And they inspire us to stay with them, and to stay with labor.”

John Shen (62), the director of USW District 4, said that the US labor movement would become even stronger with the Janus case. He added that more people than in the past want to be a member of the workers’ unions.

Comparing with last year, Labor Day 2018 in New York had more varieties of unions from different job sectors. On the other hand, most of the unions either maintained the same or had less of a crowd compared to last year. However, NY construction workers warmed the parade with their spirit in this year.



Categories: Labor, Uncategorized

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