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Department & Division News

Labor Rights are Human Rights

(This article first appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

By Organization Director Anna Smith


Breaker Boys in Pittston, PA 1911

We all have heard of human rights and we all have those rights. But, did you know that labor rights are human rights?

What do I mean by that? Well, let me give an example and begin with the “right to an education.” Public education is far too often taken for granted by Americans. Sadly, only in the last century is it normal for children go to school and learn reading, writing and basic mathematics. This is all because of the work of worker unions in the late 1800s and early 1900s to end child labor. Once young children were no longer going to work in places like the clothing mills or mines, the need for elementary and high schools emerged. Unions then fought for those schools to be public, and not owned by a religious group or a company (in the cases of “company towns”).

Workers fought for free public education. We succeeded in helping secure the right of every American to have a K-12 education. We still are fighting for that same right to a free collegiate education. Labor unions fought for human rights to be protected by law. We constantly fight to give true meaning to the phrase “dignity and respect.” We fought for, and continue to fight, to maintain basic freedoms like thought, speech, press, religion, assembly and especially our right to petition our government to correct the wrongs we face.

The Organization Department’s 2018 campaign Labor Rights are Human Rights will be focusing on arming each and every member with knowledge to not only understand what they are standing for by being a union member, but to empower each member with the tools they need to encourage others to stand with us.

Consider for a moment what it is that motivates you into going to work each day? More specifically, what motivates you to continue your career as a postal employee? Are your benefits such as pay, leave, retirement benefits or health and life insurance the motivation that drives you go to work? Or, is it as simple as you love your job and there is no other place you would rather work?

When you hear someone say they love their job, what comes to mind? Is it a “me too” or is it “wow, I haven’t heard that before?” If you didn’t have your postal career, what would your life look like? Are you living to work or working to live?

Once you realize what it is that motivates you to continue your postal career, then you will become more aware of what you are fighting for, and what you have to loose.

Taking for example if it is the pay that motivates you, you need look no further than the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW) in your state to realize what we are fighting to maintain (https://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/mw-consolidated.htm).

Would you still like your job if you didn’t make the wage secured by your union

contract? Minimum wage jobs and the loss of our basic human rights is the reality of what we would face if we didn’t stand together. Being union is about standing together; collectively bargaining over wages, hours, benefits and our working conditions; and fighting for an acceptable standard of living for our families, friends, and our future generations. ■