US Vice President and Labor Secretary back collective bargaining rights
Workers’ rights to bargain collectively are under attack across the US as Republicans try to take advantage of the fallout from the global economic crisis to slash public sector wages and benefits. Amnesty International have joined the growing chorus condemning those State Governors who are trying to take away a fundamental human right. In a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday 17 March, Vice President Joe Biden and US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told workers that the Obama administration will stand with them and will stay with them to make sure their rights are protected. The Vice President opened with a quote from President Obama saying that “We can’t have a strong middle class without unions,” then added:
You built the middle class. This fight is not about wages or benefits; it’s about trying to break unions. We absolutely, positively need collective bargaining.
Solis also said our leaders should be focused on creating good jobs and helping working families get back to work.
That’s important to remember now that as states and cities grapple with enormous fiscal challenges and everyone we know is making sacrifices and meeting those challenges. But some states’ leaders have gone too far. Budget sacrifices are one thing, but having union members give up their rights is another.
The TUC will be joining in a day of solidarity with workers in Wisconsin and other US states on Monday 4 April. Not just out of solidarity for another trade union movement, or concern for fundamental human rights, but because collective bargaining is crucial to overcoming the economic problems that the USA (and the UK for that matter) faces.
The workers who depend most on collective bargaining for decent living standards did not cause the crisis, and should not have to pay for it. But the declining wages and the increasing inequality which has resulted from the steady erosion of collective bargaining especially in the USA but across the developed world certainly did play a part in causing the global economic crisis.
To escape from that crisis, working people, their families and their communities, will need better living standards, not worse, and more equal societies, not less. Collective bargaining is far and away the best way to improve workers’ living standards, so as well as being a fundamental human right, it is vital to the economic wellbeing of countries like the USA and the UK.