By ARIEH LEBOWITZ
This year, Labor Day fell on Monday, Sept. 6, and Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, began that evening. There could not be a more appropriate confluence of events.
As unions and Labor organizations around the United States held their annual Labor Day events, and as Jews around the world gathered together – virtually and in person – to begin the holiday, it is an opportunity to reflect on the struggles working people have been facing, even before the pandemic.
The true victory for working people, however, will be when we do a better job of assuring the right of workers to organize.
All of us who work should be paid fairly, be able to stay safe on the job, and have time to spend with our families. Way too many employers get away with intimidating – even firing – workers who speak up for their rights and try to join a union.
No matter our background, our race, our ethnicity, where we were born, or the job we do – we all deserve the freedom to speak up for ourselves at work without fear of punishment. It’s time for a change.
PRO ACT IS CRITICAL
That’s why it is so critical that we pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the PRO Act). It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity for workers to secure a voice at work. The PRO Act is, in essence, the best hope for so many workers who would join a union if roadblocks were put in their way.
This was a cause championed by Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO who recently passed away. The House of Representatives passed the PRO Act in March of this year; it is now stalled in the Senate.
INEQUITY NOTHING NEW
The tough situation of so many workers in the United States is nothing new. The vast income and wealth inequality between the top 1% and everyday people stacks the cards against the rest of us. But there are now a number of crucial measures before our elected officials, with great potential to make things better – to improve health, tackle the environmental crisis, address key infrastructure needs and create secure, well-paying jobs.
Passing the PRO Act, making it easier to organize, is an important part of this agenda.
Working men and women are mobilizing Americans who understand that the scales have been tilted against them for too long. Now is the time to come to the aid of those who build and serve America.
Just look at current public opinion polling about attitudes towards unions. Support for unions is almost as high as it’s ever been. Roughly half of all workers in the U.S. say they would join a union if they could.
Now we must make it possible for them to do just that.
(Arieh Lebowitz is Executive Director of the Jewish Labor Committee, an energetic supporter of Labor unions and workers’ rights.)