This Labor Day, we honor those who have fought for worker justice and reflect on labor history including some dark chapters in our local history. While we have come a long way from some of the egregious safety issues and bloody conflict of the early 1900’s, we also know we have a long way to go. We still have a minimum wage that has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009, a lack of any federal paid family leave policy, a major racial wealth gap, and a variety of other issues that plague workers today. But worker organizing is growing and together we are moving the needle.
This Labor Day weekend, we wanted to lift up and center the voice of local workers. We asked these frontline workers the following questions and this is what we heard:
What do you want people to know about the plight of workers today?
- Most workers lack PTO/healthcare/sick pay, not making living wages
- The average person is the worker, the working class plight is one of constant exploitation hourly! Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights under attack, wars abroad instead of funding healthcare, housing and education! These all go against our interests as workers. We must unite under the banner of a new system, one by and for the working class, a socialist society
- I’d want the average person to know that currently around 60% say they’re dissatisfied with their job and 17% say they’re downright miserable at their jobs. That’s not normal and shouldnt be a standard. However, 70% when asked are open to labor unions. Union formation is up to 68% as of 2022 and it’s found that 40% of union workers ranked unionizing as “extremely important” and 28% after that ranked it said it was very important.
- Workers in general, right now, do not get a say in how our workplaces are operated. Our bosses often do not understand the work we do at a fundamental level, yet are given control over the workplace. In a democratic society, why do our voices stop mattering the second we clock in?
Which common myth about workers’ rights do you want to bust?
- Unions are the best way to increase your pay but also keep society safe. The collapse of our govts effectiveness and fairness directly correlates with the decline in unions
- That unions are a third party
- A common myth I’d want to bust is that organizing comes from a lack of care for the business. I believe we live in a culture where the employees are expected to make the business run and not just keep it running and that asking for what you’re due is wrong and selfish and it’s not! Coming to work happy and fulfilled with what you need as a worker will uplift your whole workplace and especially in food and bev, having a good space to work in allows you to give the best service and make your best food which in turn brings more money for the company.
- It’s almost seen as a truism in the South that labor unions are trying to bring conflict into the workplace, to make trouble. But really, the problem is the way workplaces are run, especially in the south and especially in non union, for profit businesses – workers are treated at once both like interchangeable cogs in the machine and like completely solitary individuals, expected to be docile and to see themselves as totally on their own in relation to their coworkers. In reality, knowing we all operate as a team, even between different businesses and different communities and industries, workers have to push back against the myth of the solitary economic individual and do what the boss always does: soberly assess and fight for our own economic interests and benefits. The best way of doing that? Organizing into labor unions!
How can people support workers organizing in Western NC?
- Get the word out about potential labor disputes and about the value of unions in the workplace. on social media via FB, X or Instagram.
- Contribute financially to local unions and come out in support of a union when there is a strike.
- Get the word out about and support any worker friendly legislation at the local, state and federal level.
- Organize strike funds and legal funds in case of retaliation
We hope the voices of these workers this Labor Day weekend will inspire you to get involved or double down on your activities to act in solidarity with workers.
This Labor Day Week, Just Economics is participating in the following events that offer an opportunity to engage:
- Tuesday 9/5, 6PM day-after-Labor Day panel (Virtual Event) “NC Workers’ Organizing: Lessons from the Field”, where we can connect and learn from each other’s labor organizing. Our panelists are: Asheville City Association of Educators, Black Workers for Justice, Communications Workers of America, El Futuro es Nuestro, National Domestic Workers’ Alliance/ We Dream in Black, UPS workers/Teamsters, UE 150/ Charlotte City workers, and Union of Southern Service Workers. It will be on Zoom and Facebook Live. Please register here: bit.ly/laborpanel
- Thursday, September 7th, 4-5pm, we are cosponsoring a Workers Rights Rally in Asheville at Pack Square Park (near the site of the old monument). We will be standing in solidarity alongside the Mission nurses (NNU), the Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Electricians (IBEW), USSW, and teachers (ACAE/BCAE). This rally is taking place while the NC AFL-CIO Convention is happening right here in Asheville. There will be a lot of attention on the local labor movement because of the convention so we would love to see a large turnout in solidarity for the Labor Movement!
Happy Labor Day Weekend Everyone!