As I sit here writing my column for this week’s issue, it’s Monday, Labor Day.

The weekend news was full of reports on shootings and Category 5 storms.

The prominent topic is the labor movement in this country. Labor Day is the celebration of working in the United States and the treatment of those workers.

Unions have helped change the workplace and improved family life for many individuals. These days Union membership has dropped, but the benefits still linger. There’s no question some unions took a wrong road here and there, but their presence also helped workers who were not members of the union. Unions helped put the pressure on other businesses to offer the same benefits to be competitive.

In their heyday, unions always seemed connected to big businesses. Today, many of the companies in our area are small businesses, and it is sometimes harder to offer competitive benefits. Some are better than others, and the ones that provide a life for their workers and families are the more successful companies.

We take a lot for granted, but these are some of the things unions have fought for over the years. Some are still in place.

Weekends without work.

All breaks at work, including your lunch breaks.

Paid vacation.

Family and medical leave act (FMLA).

Sick leave.

Social Security.

Minimum wage.

Civil Rights Act/Title VII — Prohibits employer discrimination.

Eight-hour workday.

Overtime pay.

Child labor laws.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Forty-hour workweek.

Workers’ compensation.

Unemployment insurance.


Workplace safety standards and regulations.

Employer health care coverage

Collective bargaining rights for employees.

Wrongful termination laws.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Whistleblower protection laws.

Employee polygraph protection act

Veterans employment and training services.

Compensation increase and evaluations.

Sexual harassment laws.

Americans With Disabilities Act.

Holiday pay.

Employer dental, life and vision insurance.

Privacy rights.

Pregnancy and parental leave.

Military leave.

The right to strike.

Public education for children.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and 2011 requires employers to pay men and women equally for the same amount of work.

Laws ending sweatshops in the United States.

As I review the list of benefits, I can’t help but notice many of the benefits have been whittled down over the years.

With all of the talk about Social Security, dwindling or nonexistent pensions, and benefits, it appears that unions, or whatever replaces them, still have their work to do for improving the lives of workers.

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