ILGWU Local 62 marches in a Labor Day parade (247169)
Credit: Kheel Center/Flickr

President Donald Trump’s presence has heightened the ongoing war between the workforce and the corporations who employ them. Several union leaders addressed the legacy of Labor Day and the battle for workers’ rights.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, stated to the AmNews that although gains have been made, corporations haven’t given up the fight to reverse course.

“Generations of American workers have fought to win a simple contract with their employer: a day’s work earned a day’s pay,” said Gresham. “Through struggle and sacrifice, workers built our unions and won a ladder into the middle class. Those gains proved precarious, however, as corporations tried to drive down costs and right-wing politicians attacked our social safety net. Now, in 2017, we are facing dramatically increased threats to job security, wages and benefits. Right to work legislation, once the province of the South, has moved North.”

Gresham continued, “Employers hire anti-union goons to spread fear among workers who consider joining a union. The right is gearing up, with the encouragement of Congress and the White House, to roll back hard-earned protections that took decades to enact into law.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew also pointed toward corporations feeling emboldened by a president who isn’t known as a champion of labor.

“Corporations and the ultrarich are trying to take down unions, the one force in this country that has consistently fought for the middle class and working families,” stated Mulgrew. “The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME case brought by these union busters. The case challenges the ‘fair share’ fees that public sector unions collect from workers who benefit from a union-negotiated contract but do not join the union. With the addition of Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s appointee, the Supreme Court is expected to rule against unions. We’ll have to stay united if unions are going to deal with this threat and remain true to their values.”

Mulgrew pointed out to the AmNews that Nov. 7, New Yorkers will be asked to vote on whether the state should hold a constitutional convention. He believes that if it’s approved, it could lead to actions that wouldn’t favor labor.

“The answer is no,” said Mulgrew. “The UFT has joined a diverse coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum to oppose a constitutional convention. Such a convention would put hard-won rights at risk, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and be dominated by the same special interests entrenched in Albany now.”

When asked by the AmNews to comment on the upcoming Labor Day, the American Federation of Teachers sent a column written by AFT President Randi Weingarten on the union’s website that pointed to a recent survey from CareerBuilder that stated 8 out of 10 American workers live paycheck to paycheck. Weingarten wrote that unions help workers not only go through employment with their heads held high, but also retire in the same condition.

“Belonging to a union helps working people gain the freedom to prosper,” wrote Weingarten. “This freedom comes not only from making a good living, but also from work-life balance, the ability to take a loved one to the doctor or attend a parent-teacher conference without fear of losing your job, and the ability—after a lifetime of work—to retire with dignity.”