May 2, 2014

The Real State of the Unions

Jesse D. Andrews is a graduating Senior Biology major from Fresno, California at Morehouse College. He is a youth philanthropist and guest journalist for New America Media. He is the Chairman of Atlanta’s premier scholarship foundation, The Exception Campaign. Ph. 404.953.0243 

Bernice Randolph is a Union Representative for Sodexo workers at Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and other surrounding colleges. She is the president of Born Again Words, Inc., a spoken word collaborative helping inner city youth grow into successful adults. She is a native of Trenton, New Jersey, but calls Atlanta her home. An author, artist, poet and designer, she is known for her talent in spoken words. Through her free form style, Bernice motivates, educates and inspires.

The Real State of the Unions

Recently the President of the United States of America, President Barrack Obama, gave the directives and goals for his second term and agenda for congressional leaders. Economic vitality, educational advancement and global impact was top priorities in his speech. However, what is of interest are the many Unions that actually represent the working American People. Why are they important? What do they do? How do employees benefit from them?

Unions are organizations of working people who unite to obtain rights on the job that they could not obtain by themselves. Whether it be a trade union or labor union the goal has been the same since its inception to create and implement better working conditions or pay for workers.

Unions have had a hard time to convince the American people that they are needed. Especially when organizations and businesses have a set pay scale or a set way of doing business. The President outlines his plans for the Union, the United States of America, but countless workers need support and help on advocating for their given rights within the unions, collective body of workers.

Labor unions began in the late 1800s becoming the largest labor relations organization in the country known today as American Federation of Labor or AFL. In 2010, it was noted by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development that Americans have the lowest proportion of workers who were apart of unions at a steady 11.4% compared to other countries.

Bernice Randolph, co-editor of this article, is a Union Representative for Sodexo, she fights furiously to get better pay and working conditions around the country for workers at our colleges and universities. She believes that people are not getting involved in unions because they fear for their termination if the employer found out they were associated with one.

Michelle Martin, host of Tell Me More on National Public Radio, did a special on college football players and their fight to establish a union for players in the NCAA. Players like Ramogi Huma aren't looking to get paid, but they are advocating for healthcare and guarantees on scholarships should they get hurt. It is to Huma and others advantage to ensure that many athletes get and receive the benefits to help enhance their collegiate experience and their quality of life.

This has been the case for many unions around the nation. However, much talk and discussion about Unions and their labor laws have been swept under the table. As the immigrant population continuously grows it is important for them to have unions that can help them in the transition from illegal to legal status. One of the most successful unions seen in America is the union for teachers. They are quick to advocate for better pay and teaching conditions. Their union lobbies for laws and policies that help them be successful teachers for generations to come.

Only 6.7% of non-government employees in the American workforce belong to unions. This is not because they are irrelevant as many suggest, but because the employees are not represented in certain sectors or they are not convinced they need a union. Frank Howe wrote in The Denver Post, "Labor unions exist for primarily two reasons: to protect their weakest members from their strongest and to promote socialism and collectivism." It is the "lazy", "incompetent" and the "marginal" who work extraneous and grueling hours to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to the pursuit of happiness and the American Dream. Should not they have a voice in their working conditions or a say in their workforce environment?

Working in the not-for-profit sector taught me that if the employees have a sense of ownership within the company or organization, they are more likely to be more involved in shaping the culture of the organization or company. Which helps enhance customer service and improve the financial bottom line.

Unions give the American People a voice and an advocate. Postmaster Anthony Dowell was a U.S. Postal Worker working in southwest Atlanta who believed in the people he worked with and for. He strived daily to be an advocate on working conditions, shift scheduling, pay raises, and understanding their basic human needs. He was the epitome of a union president. Unions are needed especially in the jobs we take for granted, even if only for a sense of advocacy, who knows, it may become a reality.

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