by Reva Aber Butler
Western Pennsylvania member
The face of the nation is changing and America is almost unrecognizable. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a blatant attack to weaken unions and hurt working families in its decision in the Janus v AFSCME case. This lawsuit is an attempt to divide working people – another form of union busting.
I believe that unions are needed now more than ever. I love my union job with the Deer Lakes School District. It started out as a temporary position, but 23 years later, I’m still here. Over the years, I’ve worked as a custodian and as a bus driver. I wouldn’t trade my union membership in 32BJ SEIU for anything. My good union job has sustained me through some of the toughest times in my life.
As a mother of five children, I didn’t know how I was going to make it when my husband died. I thought I was going to have to sell all my possessions and move into an apartment. But, I had my good union job which provided me a living wage and benefits. Even in my down times, I was able to take care of myself and my family.
The wages I earn allow me to support my children and area businesses in my community so they continue to thrive. There are a lot of union members in my community and these good jobs are the bedrock of our local economy. If unions are weakened and we lose ground on wages and benefits, it will impact how much we have to spend in our grocery stores, hardware stores, beauty and barber shops and more. Families will have to make tough decision of whether to eat or pay a bill.
In states like Wisconsin that already have laws similar to what Janus will bring; workers are already being hit hard. They’ve seen their wages dip $6,000 a year on average, infant mortality rates are higher, poverty rates and workplace fatalities are higher too.
While corporations and wealthy special interests think they are holding us back, workers are uniting like never before. Teacher strikes spread like wildfire in North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia. Young people are joining unions in record numbers. Recently it was union members who joined together and elected pro-union candidate Conor Lamb to Congress. And, we’ve found support from State Representatives Maureen Madden and Thomas Mehaffie, III who co-sponsored legislation that will make it easier for people to join unions.
Working people have come together in the past to stand united. That’s what we plan to do now. We will not let a court case hold us back from supporting ourselves and our families.
Working people will not be defeated.