President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union.”
Barack Obama recently said, “I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I’d want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.”
Like Roosevelt’s, Obama’s words were spoken in the midst of painful economic recession that almost became the second Great Depression. In both cases, the financial sector failed our country and left working families with joblessness, destruction of wealth and little hope for climbing out.
The president’s realized that stimulating the economy and reviving consumption was essential, at a critical moment for unions, which enable working people to bargain fairly with employers for decent wages and family-sustaining benefits. They both knew that if the minority continued to grow more powerful and the rich grew richer while people who work for a living suffered horribly, the fundamentals of our nation would not be sustainable. They knew what unions are — people.
People, who work hard and come together to improve their workplaces, improve their lives, strengthen their communities and have a real voice for social and economic justice in public policy. They knew unions could build and rebuild the middle class, the engine of democracy and of national prosperity and could make “Made in America” a symbol of national pride again.
I have been working for 27 years for the Union cause so I know firsthand how right President Obama was. We need to begin to build a better life and when they built a better life for themselves; they helped build a better life for everyone in America.
As the North Dakota AFL-CIO president, working people coming together to build a better life is essential to the middle class, to build an opportunity for the next generation worker. We need to strengthen democracy and spread prosperity throughout America.
These are today’s unions who I fight for each day.
Dave Kemnitz, AFL-CIO, president/secretary-treasurer, Bismarck