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Unions are still necessary to safeguard worker rights

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By Merilee Dannemann

Labor unions aren’t that important any more, my friend said, because all the issues that unions used to fight for are now established in law, and we have government agencies to enforce them.

This conversation happened before the 2016 election. Today, even the most basic labor protections are no more guaranteed than, say, the continued protected status of national monuments.

Laws can be changed. For every human right that was earned through political struggle, somebody has to be the watchdog to prevent that right from being taken away and to alert the public when it’s threatened.

For fair labor standards and workplace safety, that watchdog is organized labor.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June overturned the “fair share” requirement as applied to public-sector unions.

Shortly thereafter, the state of New Mexico stopped taking fair share payroll deductions for state workers.

Fair share is based on the principle that labor unions negotiate wages and working conditions on behalf of all workers in eligible categories, including those who have not joined the union. Unions are required to negotiate on behalf of all eligible employees, not just union members.


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