The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired.
The purpose of the U.S. Department of Labor is "to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment."
My father and mother were both active as shop stewards in their unions when I was a child. I remember the many conversations about some of the challenges they had with the management and owners of the places in which they worked. I remind thinking as an eleven-year-old child, "Why wouldn't their boss pay them what they should have." I would ask myself, "Why would people be unfair? What would the get out of hurting people?"
As an adult, I was a member of CWA and IAMAW. They was never a question in my mind that I should be a member. I didn't understand the full reach of what these unions provided for its members and those in the workforce who didn't want to contribute, yet still benefitted from the efforts. What I did understand was the union was on my side to protect me from corporate bullying and other forms of mistreatment as well as help structure wages, benefits and services that I needed to take care of my family.
The history of labor struggle is long and sometimes dark in America, but I for one and thankful for the men and women who have worked hard and often suffered to make sure each and every American not just have the opportunity to work for their self-sufficiency, but to be able to advance and excel in their chosen labor.
I hope we all remember the true contribution of the labor movement, the organizations that helped move labor's mission forward and the government agency that have done great service, and sometimes, not so great service, in supporting America's true heroes and heroines, the worker.
To me nothing could be more American than to fight for the needs of our families. Fighting for the rights to work and receive a family sustaining wage, to be treated justly in promotions and opportunities, and to receive the services our families need is first amongst all that we can do to care for our American families.
- Robert S. Burch, Jr.