OPINION: Will you make a better Bread Box?


Every election cycle, union members are likely to hear the famous quote by Walter Reuther – “There is a direct connection between the ballot box and the bread box.”

Mr. Reuther, the longest-serving president of the UAW, had seen unions progress from social outcast to mainstream society. He also led the UAW and the Labor Movement as they created the middle class. His many years of organizing and negotiations formed the perspective reflected in his famous quote.

In the recent mid-term elections, was there a connection between electing pro-Labor officials and worker-friendly policies? Time will tell, but two examples from the recent elections support the ballot box-bread box connection.

The AFL-CIO looks at the powerful Workers Rights Amendment voted into the Illinois state constitution (https://aflcio.org/2022/11/10/service-solidarity-spotlight-illinois-labor-movement-wins-workers-rights-amendment):

“One of the most important ballot proposals in this election was in Illinois, where right-wing politicians have been trying to chip away at our right to organize. Voters, driven by a positive and effective campaign from Illinois’ union members, have responded in huge numbers to pass the Workers’ Rights Amendment.

“This amendment to the Illinois Constitution will protect the right to organize so that more workers in the state have the opportunity to join together in a union. Illinois is now the fourth state to enshrine the right to collective bargaining in its constitution. 

“History was made with the passage of the Workers’ Rights Amendment,” celebrated Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea. “This would not have been possible without the strong solidarity of a statewide Labor Movement that came together in unison to protect the rights of our hardworking families.”

Another example happened in the birthplace of the UAW and the Teamsters. Bridge Michigan details “Michigan Democrats will control Lansing. What will they do with it?”

“Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, listed possible policy priorities on social media, suggesting repeals of several Republican measures, including right-to-work laws that prohibit union membership as a condition of employment, laws mandating third-graders repeat the grade if they are more than one grade level behind and restrictions on reproductive rights.”

Yes, the “right-to-work (for less)” law that was enacted a few years ago will hopefully be reversed, giving workers more power in the mitten state. This would be a direct example of the ballot box making for a better bread box.

Results like these will ensure union members will hear that famous quote again next election cycle: “Will you support your bread box at the ballot box?”

(Darin Gilley is financial secretary for St. Louis UAW Local 2250.)

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