A simple guide for talking unions this holiday season

It’s no secret: Not everyone sees unions as key to rebuilding America and the middle class. It’s easy to tune out the misinformation about unions and the workers who make them strong when you hear it on the news, but what should you do when the same misinformation comes from your friends and family? We’re here to help with some simple facts so you can speak up the next time you encounter someone attacking unions, and help shed light on what unions are really all about!

MYTH: Unions are run by big, overpaid bosses.
FACT: Unions are run by workers.

  • A union is simply a group of employees who join together to address workplace issues, so they can improve their working conditions and have a fair shot at a better life for themselves and their families.
  • Unions are democratic institutions. At the local, state, and national level, all union leadership is elected by majority votes—just like elections for public office.

MYTH: Unions only care about their members.
FACT: Unions are fighting to improve the lives of all workers.

  • It’s easy to forget that we have unions to thank for a lot of things we take for granted today in today’s workplaces: the minimum wage, the 8-hour work day, child labor laws, health and safety standards, and even the weekend.
  • Today, unions across the country are on the frontlines advocating for basic workplace reforms like increases in the minimum wage, and pushing lawmakers to require paid sick leave.
  • Studies show that a large union presence in an industry or region can raise wages even for non-union workers. That means more consumer spending, and a stronger economy for us all.
  • So it’s no wonder that most Americans (61%) believe that “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” according to Pew’s most recent values survey.

MYTH: Union workers are lazy, and unions are bad for business.
FACT: Unions and profitability go hand in hand.

  • Actually, unions make the workplace more efficient – despite the stereotype that we all hear.
  • Unions raise productivity on average by up to 24% in manufacturing, 16% in hospitals, and 38% in the construction. Union workers have higher professional standards because unions increase opportunities for worker training. Many even offer their own training programs.
  • Union workers are employed in some of the most respected professions. They’re nurses, firefighters, teachers, day care providers, engineers, and NASA scientists. Union members are responsible for building nuclear subs, the space shuttle, The Smithsonian, the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, and even the American flag.
  • Even small business owners think that unions are good for workers—and the economy. In fact, over 80% agree “strong unions make the free market system stronger.” They’re right. Unions exist at some of the most successful companies out there, including AT&T, Costco, UPS, and Southwest.

MYTH: Unions ask for too much. In this economy, people should be thankful for any job.
FACT: Good jobs mean a stronger economy, and that means more jobs.

  • This idea is coming straight from the same corporations that ran our economy into the ground. Now they’re taking advantage of our financial worries to grab an even bigger slice of the pie.
  • It’s just plain wrong to make working Americans foot the bill for Wall Street’s party. And it’s also bad for the economy. Because when workers can’t afford the products they produce, consumer spending takes a serious hit, and the economy does, too.
  • But when workers can bargain for family-sustaining pay and benefits, consumer spending increases. The result is a stronger economy—one that creates jobs and enables people to work their way into the middle class.

MYTH: Public employees are to blame for our budget woes.
FACT: Public employees earn less than private-sector workers in similar jobs.

  • You’re going to hear this a lot more soon. But we can’t afford to have extremist policymakers get away with scapegoating civil servants like teachers, fire fighters, and police officers.
  • Private-sector workers should be angry about the inadequate benefits they receive, but the solution isn’t to take hope away from the public sector workers who keep our communities strong.  We have to make the economy work for everyone.
  • Recent studies show that public employees make significantly less than private-sector workers with comparable education and experience, even when you factor in benefits. And according to Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman, state and local employees’ pensions make up only 6 percent of non-federal public sector spending.
  • Still not convinced? It turns out that what’s bad for public workers is bad for the economy, too. The Center for Economic Policy Research reports that freezing federal workers’ pay will mean a loss of $2.5 billion in consumption by 2012—18,000 private sector workers stand to lose their jobs as a result.
  • And don’t forget, it was Wall Street’s recklessness that caused budget shortfalls in states across the country—not public service workers. Making public service workers pay for Wall Street’s wrongdoing won’t create jobs, and it won’t save the public services we all depend on.

Click here for a PDF version of this document. Happy myth busting!

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 at 5:22 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

22 Responses to “A simple guide for talking unions this holiday season”

  1. Kathleen Johnston-Calati says:

    this is so great! Just what I need. Thank you.

  2. Amy Pfeifer-Twite says:

    Thank you so much for providing this union myth busting info! Do deal with nay sayers frequently, so this will help me be more prepared to counteract their anti-union conversation!

    Also, I have a feeling you don’t get enough kudos for the work you do to keep unions strong, so thank you so much and have a Merry Christmas!

  3. ED MATTOS says:

    Very well done. I would have added the myth that workers no longer need unions because employers no longer mistreat employees. Most discussions of unions’ place in society eventually get to this point. One can cite statistics on employers attacking freedom of association through illegal disciplinary action. However, that often draws the response that either the business is simply protecting its interests or workers should expect consequences for their actions. The point is that without unions, the workplace as we know it would be fundamentally different for everybody. Organized labor’s efforts led to legislation such as the Fair Labor Standards Act which codifies the 40-hour workweek and overtime pay and prohibits child labor. Without the urging of unions there would not be a National Labor Relations Act, prevailing wage laws, a minimum wage or even national workplace safety standards. Without unions to defend them, such worker protections could slowly be legislated out of existence.

  4. Carole Smith says:

    When did being a Union Member become a “BAD WORD”? As a retired CWA member, if it wasn’t for Unions I would’nt have been able to retire with health care coverage and a pension!!! Most of our politicos whould not have been able to go to college, if their parents were not paid decent wages because of the work of UNIONS!!! The ROBBER BARONS are BACK!!! Thank the Republican party with their loyalties to the wealth and not the MIDDLE CLASS.

  5. Tom Theiler says:

    How do we get this message across? I live in a “Right to work” state, and people have no idea what this means. They think we are all greedy and get anything we want. Can’t we make them see we get only what we are allowed by negotiations? We are not the greedy, CEOs and management are. Stand together. Tom

  6. I have worked for Ralph’s which is owned by Kroger. My Union Rep has come in during the working hours and yet my company has been forced to cut hours and wages back. So I am glad I a voice for the Unions. My wage is $8.30 per hour for 21 hours per work day which used to be four, now is only three until further notice. I helped every out on the East Coast, how about helping us out on the West Coast? I can’t do this alone. But I am glad to see things are getting back to normal or hope so.

    Happy Holidays from Ralph’s in San Diego, CA

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanRightsAtWork, SEIU Healthcare MN. SEIU Healthcare MN said: RT @araw: Got that uncle at family holiday events who sees no reason for #unions?Gear up w/ our Holiday Talking Points: http://bit.ly/fDzxVy [...]

  8. Sean says:

    Citations for all figures given would be extremely helpful. I am in an education union and I always tell my students to cite their support and to be extremely skeptical of those who don’t!

  9. Ken K. says:

    Thanks for these reminders of some of labors historical accomplishments. Further, I believe, and suggest, that organized labor should promote a general slogan. My entry would suggest that those that want it all at the expense of everyone else must be reminded of the following truth: When everyone does well, everyone does well.

  10. berry lee says:

    I defend unions because there are so many that seem to hate them. I was an engineer at three companies that had union workers(not NC of course) and they didnt get in my way at all. I just believe in treating them fairly !!!

  11. Ron Woods (ASU Workplace Delegate) says:

    Greetings from Ballarat, Victoria, Australia - the first place in the world to introduce the 8 hour day! We even have a monument in our main street to commemorate unionist James Galloway, leader of the eight-hours movement. (Are there any other monuments to union leaders anywhere?)

    Unions are definitely not self-interested, they take a global view of issues affecting workers everywhere, and often run international campaigns in support of workers who are under attack by governments and big business. For example, a few years ago, when the Australian government introduced anti-union and anti-worker laws, union members in the Philippines protested (at great personal risk) outside the Australian Embassy.

    Congratulations to ARaW and American unionists for what you’ve achieved and best wishes in your future campaigns.

  12. BRUCE R. says:


  13. James H. says:

    Thanks for fighting the good fight. Every American should welcome a union in their workplace.

  14. james w fisher says:

    The oligarch military\industrial\media conglomerate tried to kill unions in the last 4 decades. Unions in this country had a strong apprentice program educational tradition. Now we can’t train workers like Germany can because the oligarch is destroying worker political power.

  15. [...] this holiday season when the same misinformation comes from your friends and family? Our friends at American Rights at Work have come up with a great list of facts so you can speak up the next time you hear someone [...]

  16. [...] might just encounter a family worker, friend, neighbor, or coworker, spewing anti-union rhetoric. American Rights at Work has come up with a great list of facts so you can speak up the next time you hear someone attacking [...]

  17. Betsy Miller Kittredge says:

    Love this.

  18. Lynne says:

    Personally, my experience being a member of a Union for over 10 yrs, is, I don’t need a Union. The management has the same exact benefit package that the workers have, so where’s the difference? If the workers were NOT offered the same benefit package as management, they would not take the lower wages we get in Local Government vs Private industry. Nor, would we tolerate the abuse we have to tolerate by Management who generally is incompetent and/or corrupt, as well as “involved” with the Union as well! The Federal Dept of Labor supplies all the needed support a worker needs to get their unmet needs, met. The posters are on your lunchroom walls. All you have to do is look at them, read them, and begin to get to know all of the rules and laws in your STATE, when it comes to workplace law. Then, if you need help. go to your local division and ask for help. It’s THAT easy. As a citizen, you are entitled to it.
    As a Union member, you cannot rely on getting help from anyone, even when you pay dues for 10 years. This is a fact.

  19. Ed says:

    u are the reason that the union does not work for you! You obviously don’t get the big picture of what a union represents, by the way you started your selfish narrowminded babbling. ” Personally” How about for the majority of your co-workers!!

  20. LiB says:

    Wow, Lynne, is it really THAT easy bc it takes me nearly 4 hours of waiting just to re-take my DL’s photo @ the DMV!? (imagine how much time it would take the state to care for little ‘ole you) your ignorance is clearly evident in that you have no clue the true meaning in being part of a union or orgnanizing in general- its the WORKERS that make the union strong. Its the PEOPLE that show a united front and fight for fair wages and fair jobs and to retire with dignity.

    maybe this will help you out sistah’ its from Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) referring to the rise of Nazi power in Germany and the complicity of those who failed to act to prevent the spread of the Nazi plague:

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out –
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out –
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me –
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  21. DMV says:

    Thank you this is a good post… I find there aren’t enough DMV help sites available

  22. sarah phelps says:

    I was wondering if the OP could tell me what’s the name of that website that has unlimited criminal background checks? I know it’s not net detective, I have already used them and this one is better than that. I did have an account with them around three and a half years ago, but I forgot the name of the company. I’m pretty sure it costs under $20 for the lifetime membership. If anyone knows what site I am referring to, please let me know.

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