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The Antidote is Solidarity
Thoughts on this Labor Day.
By Faiz Shakir, Co-Founder, More Perfect Union
Today is Labor Day, so More Perfect Union’s staff has the day off. But I wanted to take a moment to step back and share my thoughts on the state of the labor movement in this country — where it’s going, how we got to where we are, and how I see More Perfect Union fitting into it.
Let’s be honest: There is a serious values clash going on in society today between those who have too much and those who have too little. The worker power fight of today is certainly about addressing economic disparities, but it’s also about changing cultural attitudes toward labor.
In this country today, laborers are generally treated with contempt by corporate America.
Their lives are seen as disposable; workers are measured as labor “costs” to be minimized, not as creators of value. Executives in the C-Suite who work from their villas and have private jet travel and personal expense accounts are upset over workers who want to work from home, who want to see their wages and salaries outpace inflation, and who want time to spend with families and friends.
Too many who occupy positions of power in corporate America today are arrogant, dishonest, and cruel towards the people who produce such great productivity and profits for them.
Just this week, Chris Begley, who had driven for 28 years for UPS, died in Texas after collapsing on a sweltering day with a 108° heat index. His truck didn’t have air conditioning.
The week before, Tony Rufus died in the produce section of a Kroger distribution center after trying to find a way to cool off. The produce section was kept cooler than the rest of the distribution center because the bosses cared more about keeping their lettuce crisp than keeping workers alive.
Where is the human dignity in all of this? No wonder workers are looking for more aggressive ways to fight back and change the culture of greed among the ruling class. No wonder Americans are rallying around the idea that there is power in a union.
Americans want and need champions who are willing to stick out their necks for them, who have the courage to take on powerful elites, and who understand the reality of the injustices they face. Teamsters president Sean O’Brien did that when he fought to win a new contract for UPS workers. UAW president Shawn Fain is doing that today.
Political leaders need to heed that type of strong leadership; to be willing to do battle against the powerful for the people.
In an economy that is growing ever more concentrated at the top, government serves a critical role of being able to take on the incredible power of corporate America and rebalance the scales so that workers have a chance of being respected and appreciated.
When we face this level of selfish greed from people who have so much power, the antidote is solidarity. That’s where More Perfect Union comes in. We hold a microphone up to working people who are fighting to make this country better, one workplace at a time, and broadcast it to millions on social media. The stories we share reach other workers — so Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island can inspire Starbucks baristas in Buffalo, who can inspire crew members at Trader Joe’s in Oakland.
That’s what our journalism is about. Showing solidarity with the workers so that their plight, their struggles, their concerns are heard and understood. We are also trying to tell people with power about the needs and struggles of people who don’t have power. That’s what More Perfect Union does on a daily basis and why we exist.
Big union-busting corporations like Starbucks and Amazon don’t lack the means to get their message out. They pay public relations firms millions to tell their stories through traditional media and spend billions on advertising and branding.
We don’t have millions of corporate dollars. We just have each other. But together, we have the power to demand corporate America show some damn respect to workers. When millions of people stand together demanding change, they can’t dispose of all of us.
Thank you again for sharing and supporting our work.