Danny Donohue: Unions protect our safety and health

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Safety and health is one of the cornerstones of unionism, and it remains one of our union’s biggest priorities.
The American labor movement was largely born from the need to protect ourselves in the workplace. Throughout history, we have seen too many instances of workers losing their lives doing their jobs because their employer failed to keep them safe. The 1968 workplace deaths of Memphis, Tenn. sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker led workers to organize and stand up for their own protection — in their case, a matter of life and death. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April 1968 while supporting city sanitation workers.

Fifty years later, we have seen a lot of progress in state and federal safety and health laws, but there is still more to do. In 2018, we’re doing the same thing we did in 1968 and so many times — standing up against those organizations who are STILL trying to take away our safe and healthy workplaces by seeking to destroy labor unions.

As this edition was going to press, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case. The outcome of this case could further strip unions of power by allowing ‘free riders’ — people who receive the benefits of a contract without having to pay a cent for their representation at negotiations.
Wealthy corporate interest groups are telling people they can save money and still get the benefits of a contract.

What they aren’t saying is that if there are too many free riders, your union will cease to exist at your workplace and our ability to negotiate a contract disappears…the rights in those contracts disappear and the protections in those contracts disappear too.

When these people come to your door to tell you to save a few dollars, keep in mind that they’re asking you to stand alone, with no representation. They’re asking you to jeopardize so much more than just a few dollars or a few days off. They’re asking you to BE a worker like Echol Cole or Robert Walker, who died while trying to take shelter in faulty equipment because the employer wanted to save a few dollars.

Unions protect our safety and health. If there is a better reason to keep your membership in CSEA than your own personal safety at work, I’d love to hear it. When they come knocking on your door, telling you to save your dues money, I urge you to stay union, stay strong, and tell them you will NEVER QUIT!

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