As a PhD student and graduate employee at the University of Connecticut, Cera Fisher was on her way to a successful career. But she and her colleagues were having a hard time making ends meet. Their stipends were swallowed up by fees; their healthcare was cut back; and they were required to teach more courses without extra pay. “We felt they [the administration] could change our conditions on a whim,” she recalls.
“Norma Rae Moment.” In what Fisher calls their “Norma Rae moment,” more than 2,100 research and teaching assistants organized with the UAW and won improved pay, healthcare, and fee policies.
- They’re among tens of thousands of “millennials”—America’s largest living generation, aged 22 to 37, who account for three-quarters of unions’ membership gains.
- Young people are joining together across the economy from academia and digital media to fast-food restaurants and retail outlets.
- Millennials’ energy, ideas, and numbers are needed more than ever now that unions are besieged by a Supreme Court case to weaken public service employees, “right-to-work” laws that cost workers $6,109 a year, and the Trump administration’s attacks on job safety, overtime protections, retirement security, and other crucial issues.
Historic Support for Unions. Americans are supporting unions in record numbers, and young people are leading the way.
- Sixty-one percent of all Americans hold favorable views of unions—the highest approval in a decade-and-a-half.
- Among Americans under 30, unions’ approval ratings are soaring to 76 percent.
Security in an Uncertain Economy. Having come of age during the financial crisis and the recent recession, millennials are joining and organizing unions in order to gain strength and security in an uncertain economy. As we have previously reported, younger workers face numerous challenges, including:
- The part-timing of jobs;
- Stagnant wages;
- Unpaid internships;
- Contract work;
- Shrinking healthcare coverage and vanishing pension plans; and
- “Noncompete” clauses that make it more difficult to move to better jobs.
The margin was narrow. But the message is clear: Working Americans were the real winners in Tuesday’s special election Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. By the early hours of the morning, Democrat Conor Lamb had pulled off an upset victory in the southwestern PA district, which Donald Trump carried by almost 20 percentage points in 2016.
Working Families Focus. In his post-election “spin,” Republican Speaker Paul Ryan said the results don’t matter because Lamb is a “conservative.” But, if one phrase sums up the youthful Marine veteran, former federal prosecutor, and self-described “FDR Democrat,” it’s “pro-worker.” With strong support from unions representing 80,000 workers throughout the district, Lamb focused on working families’ concerns, including:
- Building infrastructure and creating jobs;
- Protecting Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act;
- Defending workers’ rights to organize unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions.
Anti-Worker Opponent. Lamb’s opponent, Rick Saccone, an entrenched state legislator, was backed by President Trump (who stumped for Saccone twice) and $10.7 million in secretive “super PAC” spending. Right-wing billionaires backed Saccone because of his anti-worker record, including support for “right-to-work” (for less) laws, which cost workers over $1,500 a year in lost wages.
Republican Tax Plan Repudiated. After defending the Republican trickle-down tax plan in two-thirds of their TV ads through mid-February, the pro-Saccone super PACs realized working-class voters weren’t buying what they were selling, and instead switched to attacking immigrants.
“The Heart and Soul of This Campaign.” Union members of all stripes actively campaigned for Lamb, prompting him to call them “the heart and soul of this campaign.” In his victory speech, Lamb declared that the unions “built Western Pennsylvania.” Lamb’s victory is a reminder of what too many Democrats forget: Their success depends on working Americans and their unions.
In December, President Trump and the Republican Congress pushed through $1.5 trillion in trickle-down tax cuts, with big business and the super-rich pocketing 82 percent of the benefits. Now we know who Trump wants to pick up the tab: YOU.
Working Families Forgotten. In next year’s proposed budget, Trump cuts $1.5 trillion from core government programs, like the ones that help working families afford medical care, educate their kids from kindergarten through college, find and keep new and better jobs, and put a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
Let’s review that again: Under the Trump plan, corporations and the super-wealthy get to pocket nearly $1.5 trillion—that’s TRILLION—and pays for it by cutting $1.5 trillion in programs that help average families.
Americans Oppose These Cuts—What Will the Republican-Controlled Congress Do? By overwhelming margins, Americans oppose cuts in these programs, especially Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which Trump promised not to harm. Now, Congress will have the last word on the budget. Will they stand with working families or the billionaires?
America’s job-killing deficit with China reached record heights during 2017—President Trump’s first year in office. The gap between Chinese imports to the U.S. and American exports to China soared by more than $28 billion, to its highest level ever—$375.2 billion.
The problem has been brewing for many years, costing 3.4 million American jobs between 2001 and 2015. As the Economic Policy Institute recently reported:
Manufacturing Hit Hardest. While every U.S. industry is suffering, manufacturing took the biggest hit, losing 2.6 million jobs in electronics, high-tech, appliances, textiles, apparel, and other sectors.
Fewer Jobs Created. Also hurting: industries where America has had a competitive edge. Computer and electronic parts, machinery, chemicals, and transport equipment—all were lost opportunities to add jobs.
Wages Stagnate. Multinationals Profit. Competing with low-wage economies like China also drives down American wages, as does the outsourcing of American jobs to these countries. While American workers are facing pink slips and pay freezes, U.S.-based multinationals are enjoying record profits on their foreign direct investments.
Action Needed Now! America needs tough action, not just tough talk, against China’s trade abuses: dumping, illegal industry subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to imports, suppressing workers’ wages and rights, and frequent currency manipulation. American jobs and incomes are at stake!
Want to call a halt to the trash-talking in Washington, D.C.? Or are all the slurs and slanging matches driving you to drink?
Either way, there’s something for you on today’s calendar.
This is the official “no name calling week.” Someone alert President Trump. And on this day in 1920, Prohibition began in the United States as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Thankfully, it was repealed 13 years later.
So, today’s the day to lift a glass and hopefully toast to President Trump lowering his voice and working with Congress to address working Americans’ needs for good jobs with rising wages, health care coverage, and retirement security.