This year, organized labor was dealt one of the most significant blows it has faced in decades. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case jeopardized the long legacy of social activism and political influence that unions have wielded, and in doing so has forced many of these organizations to reflect on what their role is and should be. Through this reflection, labor unions are rediscovering their vital role as social safety networks for a working class that is increasingly being let down by government.
In these chaotic times, workers are ever more stressed out about healthcare costs, diminishing purchasing power from their paychecks, and a very real looming threat from automation and technological advancement. Help is not coming from a dysfunctional federal government. And while New York State lawmakers continue to mostly advocate for organized labor’s interests, they cannot be depended on to solve all the problems facing workers across Queens and beyond.
And this is where the power of the labor union prove its worth. It picks up the slack for workers, keeping employers honest when government regulators are less present. It finds ways to help members dealing with health crises when government conspires with health insurers to reduce benefits. And when the government fails to respond to tragic natural disasters like Hurricane Maria, it is the labor unions that spring into action to help their fellow Americans as bureaucrats and elected officials twiddle their thumbs.
Strong labor unions make for strong communities, and always have. Luckily, here in Queens we continue to have a strong workforce, supportive of labor unions, realizing all the good they bring to communities.
As we head into Labor Day weekend, we at the Queens Tribune want to recognize this vital role labor plays in making the borough vibrant and safe, and say thank you.