Changing Union Perception

Published on: May 6, 2014

After years of assault by the corporate-owned media, the political establishment, and the modern right-wing economic paradigm, organized labor is now one of the least trusted institutions in the United States according to Gallup’s recent poll on confidence in institutions.

However, this is starting to change. Unions around the country are changing the perception of organized labor in their community. Members of unions at local levels are getting back to their social justice roots.

Before paid negotiators, business agents, and grievance procedures, unions were, at their very root, social movements of working people. Union members did not just fight for pay and the right to organize.

Labor has a proud history of fighting for causes on behalf of all working people, like child labor laws, safe working conditions, the 8 hour work day, the weekend, etc.

Many unions around the country are showing that social justice unionism works. Fights for social justice and alliances with the community are how unions change the perception of unions in the public. By not fighting just for our own wages, hours and working conditions, but issues affecting the working class as a whole, working people will support organized labor again.

Public sector unions must show everyone that the interests of public servants and the interests of the public are one in the same.

The Chicago Teachers received the support of 2/3rd of public school parents during their strike, because Chicago parents knew the teachers were fighting for better schools for their kids. In Portland, students, teachers and parents came together to fight for lower class size and more teachers. They won. A local, corporate media poll even showed that the public’s main issue of concern in regards to bargaining, was class size. Vermont bus drivers recently won their strike through a combination of workplace strength and vigorous outreach to their riders.

This is why Local 1 is expanding the fight. We can gain power as a union by getting involved strategically in community issues that affect the work we do as public servants. We can win at the bargaining table by uniting our interests as with the interests of those we serve.