Letter: Celebrating labor unions on Labor Day

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, August 31, 2017

As we come up on Labor Day, I have been thinking about how much unions have helped so many people, myself included. I come from a union family, and have seen firsthand what having decent pay, benefits and job security means to our families. Unions are where we can come together and fight so that working families have a fair shot.

I have worked in housekeeping at Mayo Albert Lea for 27 years, and have been a proud union member the whole time. I enjoy my job because I like to get to see and talk to people when they are in our hospital. I get to know people, and sometimes they even say hello in the street when they recognize me from my job.

While I love my work, I know that having our union means that I can concentrate on my job and not on worrying about whether I can pay the bills, whether I’ll get enough hours or whether a boss can fire me for no reason.

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Despite the gains we’ve won over the last three decades, I’m afraid the attacks and scare tactics over the years have worked. Younger people may take for granted all of the gains union workers have made, and let those gains slip away. I know that if that happens, it will be a painful case for them of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it is gone.”

We do important work making sure the hospital runs smoothly, and in return we have good pay, benefits and a stable job, where they can’t just fire you for no reason. Unions win and protect the gains that built the middle class in America. Without unions, we’d have the super wealthy and minimum wage, no-benefit, no-security jobs. Nothing in the middle. We can’t let that happen.

I feel bad for people who work hard but don’t get paid fairly or have benefits or protections. Many people in our community have to work two jobs because their job doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet. Unions are also the place where we can come together to fight back when faced with difficult situations like we are currently facing here in Albert Lea. We are only as strong as we are when we stick together.

I’ve worked union all my life, and I wouldn’t want to ever go to a job without a union. I’d feel so alone and like I had no power. My life experience shows that unions are the driving force in growing the middle class. Let’s fight to strengthen the unions we have and grow the number of people who are able to join a union so they, too, can have a safe, secure spot in the middle class. That would be a great way to celebrate Labor Day.

Marlene Baseman

Albert Lea