This Labor Day weekend is a time for OPCMIA members to reflect on what their union means to them, and on what it means to be a part of the North American labor movement.

There has been a running narrative for many years — decades even — that organized labor is in decline, that we’re shrinking, have less power and are relics of the past.

But as recent events make clear, this narrative is misleading at best and a myth at worst.

Yes, unions, their members and all working families are under vicious attack. We face an onslaught of money from anti-worker billionaires like the Koch Brothers and giant corporations spending unprecedented amounts to wipe the labor movement out of existence. Unleashed by the Citizens United ruling, they have bought themselves the U.S. Congress and a majority of state governments, and with it, the power to appoint anti-labor judges and justices.

Working through elaborately well-funded networks and unaccountable dark money groups, they rammed through a spate of state “right to work” laws and bills repealing collective bargaining rights. They have appointed management stooges to key regulatory posts and the courts to undermine enforcement of labor laws. And they had their biggest victory yet in the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling, making the entire public sector “right to work.”

But here’s the most important thing: While big business and big money are out to get us, the American people are on our side — overwhelmingly.

As the AFL-CIO recently noted, consider these critical facts:

  • “Right to work” was just voted down by two-thirds of Missouri voters, including half of Republicans.
  • Labor unions’ approval rating has risen to 61 percent, the highest in nearly 15 years.
  • Some 262,000 working people joined unions last year — three-quarters of them younger than 35.

The people understand that strengthening unions is the only way to get wages and working families’ living standards on the rise again.

The people understand that strengthening unions is the only way to undo the brutal inequality that has exploded over the past three decades.

The people understand that strengthening unions is the only way to have an effective counterweight to the unprecedented economic and political power of giant corporations and billionaires.

This was made clear in the Gallup poll cited by the AFL-CIO. Nearly four in 10 Americans want unions to have greater influence in our society, compared to just 28 percent who want unions to have less influence.

Most people also understand that unions are the only way workers can have a voice in the workplace, protection from management abuses, and financial, health and retirement security.

The bottom line is this is our time. Because the people are on our side.

This is the time for labor to rise up and organize.

This is the time for labor to rise up and increase our market share in our industry, construction, and all others.

This is the time for labor to rise up and join with our community, civic and faith-based allies to rebuild the progressive movement.

This is the time for labor to rise up and retake political power from the greedy billionaires who are trying to wipe us off the face of the earth.

And a good place to start is this fall’s elections. If OPCMIA members volunteer for pro-worker candidates — regardless of party — and vote to elect them, we can start leveling the playing field, blocking anti-worker legislation, and enacting bills that improve our quality of life, increase our work hours, and strengthen our rights.

This is our time. Let’s pledge this Labor Day to seize the moment!

Daniel E. Stepano
General President