On Labor Day, we recognize and honor the achievements of America’s working people. In 2017, this annual celebration comes at a critical time for our nation. Collective action is on the rise – yet so are the attacks on our pay, health care, retirement security and rights on the job.
As we enjoy the fellowship of our loved ones at a barbecue, fireworks or other community events, it also is important to reflect on the best ways working people can come together to build an economy that works for all of us.
In growing numbers, working families across the country are taking action to win the freedom to negotiate a fair return on our work so we can provide for our families. As a result of our unity at the bargaining table and the ballot box, working people in 2016 won the largest pay increase in years. A strong majority of Americans have a positive view of unions. Working people are organizing, from traditional manufacturing to higher education to the digital economy.
All of this organizing is happening for one very simple reason: unions help lift the national economy for all of us.
In a report released just last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a number of tangible economic benefits were outlined on how unions continue to push progress. The report found that unions strengthen democracy by giving workers a political voice, reduce inequality and are essential for low- and middle-wage workers’ ability to obtain a fair share of economic growth. It found that unions raise wages for both union and nonunion workers and significantly boost wages for women and lessen racial wage gaps. Unions improve the health and safety practices of their workplaces and support strong families and retirement security with better benefits and due process, EPI found.
It is clear that unions are a driver of economic growth and are the last thing any pro-growth policymaker should be attacking. Still, here in Ohio, we continue to fight back against attacks on our freedom to join together in the fight against income inequality and all of the social imbalances that come with it. Out-of-state corporate interests continue to push for so-called "right to work" laws that hurt Ohio economically and would lower wages for working people.
Whether it’s the expansion of misleading right to work laws, rollbacks on workplace safety or the assault on our pay and benefits by Congress and the White House, it is critical that we continue to organize and mobilize around an agenda that would do us all harm.
Today, even as we ride a wave of pro-worker momentum, our economy remains badly out of balance. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio in 2016 was an obscene 347 to 1. Meanwhile, many corporations are shipping our jobs overseas and stashing profits offshore to avoid paying taxes. To add insult to injury, corporate-backed politicians continue to try to take away the freedoms unions have won for all of us.
Yet inequality is not inevitable. Our economy is nothing more than a set of rules. We can, and we must elect leaders who will rewrite those rules so wages are high, benefits are strong, work is safe, retirement is secure and the freedom to negotiate is universal.
This Labor Day, as we celebrate the contributions of working families, let’s also pledge to do the hard work of transforming our economy so every single American can work for a better life.