Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is also the day to celebrate some of the labor movements’ major accomplishments on behalf of all Americans: Eight-hour work day. Weekends without work. Lunch breaks. Minimum wage. Sick leave. Paid vacation. Child labor laws. Workers’ compensation. Workplace safety and regulations. Employer health care insurance. Pensions. Overtime pay. The list goes on.
These successes did not happen overnight. Union members fought every day to win these common-sense changes to make our economy work for everyone and not just a select few.
The same is true at our union. As the largest union representing federal employees, what our union and members do have a far-reaching effect across the country. Oftentimes, our fight for workplace rights in the federal government has ramifications on the democratic values all Americans cherish.
When due process in the federal government is threatened, for example, it sends a chilling effect to all workers across the country. Indeed, President Reagan’s unprecedented firing of more than 11,000 air traffic controllers encouraged private employers to do the same to striking workers.
Every day is Labor Day at our union
Our members don’t just show up for work to do the work they have been hired to do, but they work to protect our justice system and workplace rights for all Americans. Here are some of the things we do every day:
- We maintain and promote a system in which employees are treated fairly and their voices are heard
This includes protecting due process, a critical component of a democratic system. Our union recently won a case in which the Trump administration attempted to take away representation rights for 2 million federal employees via an executive order targeting official time.
- We negotiate a fair contract for employees
A collective bargaining agreement sets forth the terms of employment for the employees. Oftentimes, a union contract is the only way an employee can extract decent benefits and working conditions such as a safe workplace, sick leave, vacation time, health benefits, and working hours. Without coming together in unions, workers can get fired for any or no reason. With a union contract, workers can only be fired for cause.
- We hold management accountable
If management violates the contract, we hold them accountable by filing a grievance or unfair labor practice. We also take them to court. Our locals have regularly won cases over improper payment, wage theft, and retaliation.
- We keep our workplace safe
We monitor health and safety violations to prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths on the job. Without our involvement in safety training and standards, employers are unlikely to follow health and safety laws.
- We take to the streets to protest unfair, dangerous policies
Because we work closely with the American people who are our customers, we know first-hand when they are harmed by bad policies and laws. We, for example, took to the streets to protest closures of Social Security offices, which cut off access to benefits for retired Americans. We’ve also held hundreds of rallies to protest the privatization of Veterans Affairs hospitals because our veterans deserve better.
- We seek legislative fixes
We share our working conditions with members of Congress to get problems solved. Our members who work at federal prisons, for example, got a bill passed that provided them with life-saving pepper spray to protect themselves if attacked by inmates. We won locality pay increases, providing relief to working families living in high-cost areas across the country. We ended travel per diem cuts that had forced employees to pay out-of-pocket for legitimate travel expenses that should have been covered by their employer. We defeated attempts to outsource federal jobs. The list goes on.
- We keep each other informed of our rights
We get together with new members or new employees to educate ourselves on our workplace rights. Knowledge is power. It’s also empowering to know we have each other’s back if we are treated unfairly.
- We form allies
We join together with other labor unions and allies both at local and national levels to maintain and promote democracy and workplace rights.
- We actively expand the labor movement
Our union is a model for other unions when it comes to organizing in an open shop environment and recruiting young workers. We are also actively encouraging retirees to stay on and become more involved in our union.
Join our movement
With all the attacks against working people and their unions, it’s important now more than ever to join and ask your coworkers to join our union.