Labor Day: A time for reflection and action
Working people are rising in this country and Oregon is no exception. And if you look closely at some of the trends in the economy, this should come as no surprise.
The Great Resignation has put a spotlight on a long and enduring reality for many working people: They've been bearing the brunt of an economy and a job that isn't treating them fairly — and they're fed up.
Despite a dangerous and disruptive global pandemic, workers are on the move, whether that's leaving a dead-end job that doesn't pay enough or forming a union as a way to make their life better.
Worker power has been on display this last year in some of the most inspirational ways. We saw Amazon workers celebrate an incredible victory on Staten Island; Starbucks workers have handily won union elections at locations across the county, including many in Oregon; a wave of strikes won successful contracts at places like Kelloggs and Nabisco right here in North Portland and in the film and television industry as a result of a "Striketober" that just never ended.
In all of these examples, workers' collective power and solidarity has been the common denominator holding workers together in the fight for justice.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw workers heralded as essential — as the glue holding together our communities — but too often as the pandemic raged on, and now in the waning days of it being on the consciousness of everyday Oregonians, workers have been treated as expendable.
The janitors, who cleaned countless infected hospital rooms, grocery workers who showed up every day to keep us fed, and the nurses whose faces were covered with bruises for months on end have been left feeling most often forgotten and underappreciated.
This is why workers are organizing, and winning, in workplaces across the country. Workers are tired of being called essential while being treated with disrespect, forced to work in unsafe conditions and compensated too little for their labor.
Workers at Starbucks, at New Seasons, at Amazon, on college campuses, in the video game industry and beyond have all spoken loud and clear this year that they deserve the freedom to stand together in unions and will fight for respect on the job.
Their struggles have inspired a resurgence of the American labor movement that has spurred countless more to stand in solidarity in one of the most powerful gestures of worker strength in generations.
On Labor Day, we have a lot to reflect on as workers and a community as a whole. We have seen powerful workplace organizing happening in places never thought possible. The number of petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board by workers to exercise the freedom to stand together in unions and negotiate for a fair return on work are up 68% compared to last year.
Unions are more favorable today than ever before in the past 50 years. More and more young people are seeing unions as a pathway to what used to be called the middle class. We stand at a pivotal moment in history for working people and it's time to take action.
This Labor Day, the unions of the Oregon AFL-CIO encourage you to stand in solidarity with workers fighting for justice. Support picket lines. Sign petitions. Take actions to help those in your community who are fighting for justice. Vote for candidates endorsed by Oregon Labor to give working people the allies needed in the halls of power. Take a stand and be on the side of those who are fighting to build a fair and just economy for all.
Graham Trainor is president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of labor unions, representing more than 300,000 Oregonians
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