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Unions Paved The Way For String of New Labor Wins


For decades, unions have led the way in securing rights that benefit all workers - not just those who belong to a union.

By Mark Colangelo

Workers everywhere have reason to celebrate. Recent months have ushered in a wave of policy wins that bolster worker rights, create opportunities and level the playing field against powerful corporate interests. These victories were not just handed to us. They are the result of years of tireless efforts by America’s labor unions. Just as with weekends, sick leave, the 8-hour work day and other benefits workers today take for granted, the road to this recent set of wins was paved by unions.

Let’s take a look at some of these recent wins and the role unions played in making them happen.

FTC Clamps Down on Non-Competes

In a groundbreaking move, the Federal Trade Commission has banned noncompete clauses, protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to change jobs. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 American workers are bound by such agreements, preventing them from getting the fair market rate for their labor. The change was pushed for by America’s labor unions, with the AFL-CIO arguing that “noncompete agreements trap workers from finding better jobs, drive down wages, and stifle competition.” If you are one of the millions of workers now free to advance your career without legal barriers, thank a union.

Overtime Pay Expanded

In a move long advocated for by labor unions, The Department of Labor has dramatically raised the salary threshold for overtime pay. Starting on July 1, the threshold will leap from $35,568 to $43,888, and then further increase to $58,656 by 2025. This change will extend overtime benefits to millions, and according to Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, “restore the promise to workers that if you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should be paid more for that time.”

A recent string of wins are milestones in a long line of union achievements that have steadily improved life for workers everywhere.

Apprenticeships Get A Boost

A recent executive order aims to increase registered apprenticeships in a strategic expansion of job creation and skill development in both the public and private sector. The move is right out of the union playbook. Apprenticeships have long been the secret sauce of union excellence, with New York City’s construction unions investing heavily in such training programs to create a pipeline of highly skilled workers. This new mandate not only addresses the urgent need for skilled labor, but also affirms the union model of hands-on training to put workers on the path to a solid middle class life.

This recent string of wins are milestones in a long line of union achievements that have steadily improved life for workers everywhere. There is cause to celebrate, but not to get complacent. These policy changes, along with workers rights more broadly, are under continuous assault by powerful forces who profit when workers have less power. The fight continues, and unions lead the way.


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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