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Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

Please join the New York State Nurses Association, the Capital District Area Labor Federation and the Greater Capital Region Building and Construction Trades Council for a labor and community

Today, strikes are back—among teachers, hotel workers, auto workers, supermarket employees, and disconsolate Google-ites, among others. (The walkout of roughly 20,00 Google employees, protesting the company’s treatment of sexual harassment, didn’t even make it into the BLS numbers due to the bureau’s definition of what constitutes a work stoppage.) As I write, more than 20,000 workers are preparing to take a strike vote at Safeway markets in the D.C.–Maryland area.

President Trump released a $4.8 trillion budget proposal on Monday that includes a familiar list of deep cuts to student loan assistance, affordable housing efforts, food stamps and Medicaid, reflecting Mr. Trump’s election-year effort to continue shrinking the federal safety net. The proposal, which is unlikely to be approved in its entirety by Congress, includes additional spending for the military, national defense and border enforcement, along with money for veterans, Mr.

Union leaders and labor rights advocates applauded the Democrat-controlled U.S. House for passing landmark legislation Thursday night that supporters have called one of the most notable efforts to expand workers' rights in several decades. "Make no mistake, this is the most significant step Congress has taken to strengthen labor laws in the United States in 85 years and a win for workers everywhere," said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, declaring the measure "the labor movement's number one legislative priority this year."

Support for the labor movement is the highest in nearly half a century, yet only one in 10 workers are members of unions today. How can both be true?

A recent Gallup poll found that 64% of Americans approve of unions and research from MIT shows nearly half of non-union workers—more than 60 million people—would vote to join today if given the opportunity. Twenty-five years ago, only one-third of workers said the same thing.

The Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ended 2019 by rolling back another round of Obama-era regulations and handing down a number of pro-employer decisions. One of those rulings restricts workers from wearing union buttons and other pro-labor insignia. The Organization United for Respect at Walmart (Our Walmart) had challenged a company policy limiting the size of union buttons for employees of the retail corporation. The group seemingly had momentum on its side.

In the 1930s, at the time of the writing of the Wagner Act—the law which grants workers the right to form unions and collectively bargain— union organizing took place during shift changes on factory floors and over beers in union halls. The law protected workers from retaliation for this type of in-real-life organizing, and it still does. But times have changed, and often the only points of contact for workers at any given company are email, Slack, and Facebook groups.

“There is precious little in this deal that addresses China’s long-standing denial of basic labor rights,” said Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO. “It is another big giveaway to Wall Street and Big Pharma and prioritizes new protections for companies that move to China, creating even more incentives for outsourcing.”

Congratulations, and welcome to the American workforce! Many years of work and school brought you to this new place of early mornings, long hours and way too much coffee. You’re probably a little worried, and that’s okay. Between impressing your boss and working through mountains of student debt, it can be a lot to think about.