President's Report

Fall 2015

Without a doubt, we live in challenging times. Economic inequity has never been so great in this county, poverty and hunger are at an all-time high, and wages are at an all-time low. Never have so few had so much, while so many have so little.

Without a doubt, we live in challenging times. Economic inequity has never been so great in this county, poverty and hunger are at an all-time high, and wages are at an all-time low. Never have so few had so much, while so many have so little.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Here in the United States, we are a country, a state and a city divided like never before. We need to figure out how to make this work; how to make all our communities better places to live. Our society has moved away from the ideal of working toward the common good to a more individualistic approach, which has at its core the question, “What’s in it for me?”

In September, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s new Archbishop, Blase Cupich, accepted the Chicago Federation of Labor’s invitation to speak to the working families of Chicago. (Read more on page 6.) He provided his insights on the issues plaguing the Labor Movement here in Illinois and across the country, and renewed the longstanding relationship between us. The Church’s Catholic social teaching is the truth of what God has shown about who he is, and through the social teaching we learn how to build a just society that is inclusive. This gets to the heart of what the Labor Movement is all about.

On November 10, the Fight for $15 held a national day of action here in Chicago and across the country to raise awareness around the economic inequities plaguing our communities. (Read more on page 4.) This rally marked exactly one year until the 2016 presidential election. In addition to income inequality and the fight for fair wages, there are several contentious issues that are dividing the country right now that will become the focal point of this election, issues like gun control, immigration and race relations. These are all issues that we as a society need to deal with, together. We can no longer sweep these problems under the rug for the next generation.
As we look to the 2016 election, money is going to play an even more important role than in previous elections because of organizations like Citizens United and billionaire donors like the Koch brothers. Here in Illinois, Governor Rauner spent $27 million of his own money to win his 2014 election. Overall, he outspent Governor Quinn 2-to-1, but he only won 50.8 percent of the popular vote.
That’s why it is important for all of us to get involved. We cannot sit on the sidelines. As we approach November 2016, my advice to everyone is if you do not like the conversation, do something to change it.

How are you talking about the election at your worksite? How are you talking to your spouse, children or parents? What are you telling your neighbors? The Labor Movement needs to lead the conversation, rather than become the conversation. As we have seen more and more, the other side is pointing fingers at Labor, blaming us for society’s problems and calling for sweeping labor reform to resolve it. With enough repetition, the media will latch on to the concept and convince the public that there is something wrong with Labor and reform is necessary.

We are the defenders of the middle class, and we cannot allow those who oppose us to paint our picture any other way. The Labor Movement stands up for all workers, the unionized and those we intend to unionize. We attack injustices like wage theft before it even starts. We work to protect the common good and eliminate pay inequity. When you do the work, it should not matter what your age, race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability is. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. However, with a union contract, if you do the work, you get the rate.

The people fighting against us should instead join us in the fight against wage theft and discrimination. They should join us in the fight to protect our social services safety net and to make workplaces safer. They should help us repair our ailing infrastructure and maintain quality education. They should help fight companies who use corporate inversion to weaken our tax base.

This is what our country needs right now. This is what will raise families out of poverty and into the middle class where they belong. Together we can create an America of shared prosperity. An America where you do not surrender your dignity or your rights when you go to work. An America where we honor each individual, while understanding that connecting with each other and supporting each other are what gives life meaning.

Print