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Labor Day: Unions Remain Relevant 100+ Years Later

Happy Labor Day!  Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement, and has been celebrated for over 100 years in the United States.  It serves as a tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.  On this day, as we celebrate what the labor movement has accomplished thus far, it’s important to remind ourselves of the reasons why unions are still very important and relevant to teachers today.  Here are a few of those reasons.

States with the strongest teachers unions are those with the highest-performing public schools. When teachers feel supported in their work as professionals, they are able to offer their best to their students.

Unions provide checks and balances in our schools systems and help protect teachers against arbitrary misuses of power.  In a piece titled Why Teacher Unions Are Good for Teachers and the Public, Diane Ravitch writes that, in 2005, the United Federation of Teachers found it necessary to add language to their contract  “that specifically protected teachers from being punished because of: ‘a) the format of bulletin boards; b) the arrangement of classroom furniture; and c) the exact duration of lesson units.’”

Much of the legislation that workers in many professions take for granted today (for example: the eight hour work day and the weekend) is the result of the past achievements of union workers.  During recent decades, the percentage of union workers has fallen while wages and benefits have suffered an overall decline. There are many inequalities and social problems that still need the support of unions today.

Unions act as agents of change, not just for their members, but for the whole society.  Non-unionized workers benefit from the precedents set when their unionized colleagues’ gain higher salaries or better working conditions.  Unions have also been important supporters of such vital causes as the civil rights movement and equal pay for women doing equal work.

Why do you think unions are important?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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