quotations about labor unions
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech, Aug. 30, 1960
The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.
THOMAS DONAHUE, Report to the Convention from the AFL-CIO Executive Council
The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech to AFL-CIO, Dec. 11, 1961
The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech to the state convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, Oct. 7, 1965
To be free, the workers must have choice. To have choice they must retain in their own hands the right to determine under what conditions they will work.
SAMUEL GOMPERS, "The Worker and the Eight-hour Workday", American Federationist: Official Magazine of the American Federation of Labor
With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.
CLARENCE DARROW, The Railroad Trainman, Nov. 1909
At the core, labor unions (we) are working men and women, unified as one force. Despite any personal differences that may exist between us, we have banded together to protect and improve the lives of workers. We rise up together for the greater good. We defend one another like family.
SUE CARNEY, "We're Not a Fee-for-Service Organization", The American Postal Worker, March/April, 2014
The labor movement was not originated by man. The labor movement, my friends, was a command from God Almighty. He commanded the prophets thousands of years ago to go down and redeem the Israelites that were in bondage, and he organized the men into a union and went to work. And they said, "The masters have made us gather straw; they have been more cruel than they were before." "What are we going to do?" The prophet said, "A voice from heaven has come to get you together." They got together and the prophet led them out of the land of bondage and robbery and plunder into the land of freedom. And when the army of the pirates followed them the Dead Sea opened and swallowed them up, and for the first time the workers were free.
MOTHER JONES, speech at front steps of capital in Charleston, Aug. 15, 1912
Too few Americans know labor history and how they have benefited from the efforts of unions. We have a 40-hour work week, defined benefits, higher wages, paid vacations and sick leave, largely as the result of union activity in the 20th century. We built a middle-class society in the period after World War II, also a period when the work force was, compared with today, heavily unionized.
KEN BERNSTEIN, "No unions: Government by the rich, for the rich", CNN, Feb. 24, 2011
In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech to support sanitation workers on strike for union recognition in Memphis, Apr. 3, 1968
To a right-winger, unions are awful. Why do right-wingers hate unions? Because collective bargaining is the power that a worker has against the corporation. Right-wingers hate that.
JANEANE GAROFALO, Majority Report, Jun. 3, 2005
Unions have been fighting the 1 percent vs 99 percent fight for more than 100 years. Now the rest of us are learning that this fight is also OUR fight.
DAVE JOHNSON, "Labor's Fight is OUR Fight", Campaign for America's Future
Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.
MOLLY IVINS, attributed, "Labor's Fight is OUR Fight", Campaign for America's Future
The story of the labor movement needs to be taught in every school in this land.... America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions, can do to make a better life. We ought to be proud of it.
HUBERT HUMPHREY, speech before the Minnesota AFL-CIO Convention, 1977
To remember the loneliness, the fear and the insecurity of men who once had to walk alone in huge factories, beside huge machines -- to realize that labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen -- human companionship on the job, and music in the home -- to be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father -- to know these things is to understand what American labor means.
ADLAI STEVENSON, speech, Sep. 22, 1952
Labor unions would have us believe that they transfer income from rich capitalists to poor workers. In fact, they mostly transfer income from the large number of non-union workers to a small number of relatively well-off union workers.
ROBERT E. ANDERSON, Just Get Out of the Way
Labor unions are the prize fighters of the working class inside today's form of economy. They are tied inseparably to the wage system because, without them, workers would be unable to sell their labor-power at its value, because they lead the struggle against the tendency, inherent in capitalist accumulation, toward the relative impoverishment of the working masses.
ANONYMOUS, attributed, German Communism, Workers' Protest, and Labor Unions
Labor unions are a complex and mixed subject. The institution of unions is not all good and certainly not all bad. Unions contributed mightily to the strengthening and perpetuation of American industry by equalizing the two equal partners, capital and labor. They still contribute a legitimate service as a kind of professional adviser to workers. Unions have earned an honest place for themselves, but they have not proved themselves any more fit to act as a fourth arm of the government than industrialists are.
JENS O. PARSSON, Dying of Money
Strong, responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labor bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labor contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organized and that their organizations must be recognized by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace.
LOUIS BRANDEIS, The Curse of Bigness: Miscellaneous Papers of Louis Dembitz Brandeis
Unions still adhere to simple-minded philosophies like the famous "More!" of Samuel Gompers and the view of workers in society as an eternal war between Us and Them. Both kinds of view are anachronisms.
JENS O. PARSSON, Dying of Money