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Dr. Bob: Organized labor provides an essential people-powered counterweight to corporate influence

Dr. Bob Lorinser gave the following speech Sun. Sept. 5 at the Houghton County Labor Day Eve Picnic. He also spoke on why he's running for Congress and closed with a town-hall-style QandA.

HOUGHTON, Mich. ━ Growing up, we were a union family. My father worked on the railroad, and my mother was a nurse. Both were members of unions. Today, as former State Department employees in the U.S. Foreign Service, my wife Peggy and I are members of the AFSA.

Amidst all the barbeques, fairs, and other celebrations we had this weekend, we need to take time to recognize the meaning of Labor Day. Labor Day is our annual celebration of all workers. It is a holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America's strength, prosperity, and well-being.

This holiday started in the late nineteenth century when labor activists, organized labor, and their unions wanted a day to celebrate their achievements. Without organized labor, this particular weekend wouldn't exist. Without unions, which have been instrumental in helping workers make these contributions possible, we won't be here. Without unions, where would we be?

Unions address an unequal power structure between the employee and employer. It's one of the most vital roles in our society. Without unions addressing a level playing field, the average worker in the United States would have essentially zero power in society. Organized labor allows for negotiations to take place between the employers and the employees. We must provide a counterweight to corporate influence. Unions can use their' people power' to match the employer's 'dollar power' and find reasonable solutions and positive outcomes for both parties. Unions look for win-win results for employers and employees. Without this, both will fail.

Benefits for the employer:

  • Improved economic growth and productivity

  • Strengthened competitiveness

  • Enhanced product or service delivery and quality

  • Decreased worker turnover

Benefits for all employees - unionized or not:

  • Improved workplace health and safety

  • Higher wages and salaries, and benefits

  • A powerful force for equality resulting in decreased gender and racial wage gaps

The benefits to the public are clear since we are the recipients of better products, services, and better wages.

Union membership has plunged, especially in the private sector, since the 1980s. We should be worried about this since it correlates with rising economic inequality and falling wages.

Today and every day, let's celebrate unions. Let's celebrate all workers. Let's celebrate win-win results and continue to embody unity. When we work together, when we strive to improve our work environments in negotiations, contracts, and positive relationships with our employers, it contributes to mutual success, economic growth, and a better, more productive society.

Thank you, workers. Thank you, Unions. Thank you both for all that you have done and continue to achieve.

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