WHY UNIONS? WHY NOW?
As we enter into a new year, it’s always a good time to remind us of our roots.
The history of Unions in America began in the mid to late 1700’s when workers had their first strike to protest a wage reduction in 1768 by journeymen tailors. This led to the formation of Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers) in Philadelphia in 1794. Thus began the demand by workers for fair wages, shorter workweeks, and recognition for their skilled labor. This was followed by the first trade union to organize craft unions in a single city with the formation of the Mechanics Union of Trade Associations in Philadelphia in 1827. In 1852, national unions emerged with the founding of the International Typographical Union in 1852. The early Union movement was mainly a movement of skilled workers.
Beginning in the 1830’s, the advocates of equal rights mounted a series of reform efforts spanning into the 19th century, which led to the formation of the National Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who worked to reform labor.
With the merger of Labor Reform Groups and Trade Unionist in 1886, the American Federation of Labor was founded which began to shift from labor reform to organizing along occupational lines and job-conscious goals. In the years that followed, America’s Unions had to learn to deal with issues that included race, gender, and ethnic divisions in order to build into what would become strong International Unions that would represent all workers. Today America’s Unions not only organize workers and negotiate contracts, but are heavily involved in political circles protecting not only the rights of Union workers, but the rights of all Americans to have a living wage, retirement plans and health care insurance, plus a host of other social and financial needs. The employers that FAIR represents includes the UFCW International Union which was founded in 1979 when the Retail Clerks Union (founded in 1890) and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America (founded in1897) merged together to form the modern day United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. FAIR today represents employees of the International Union and employees of UFCW Locals, as well as Trust Fund employees. FAIR is also very proud to represent Brotherhood of Teamsters Locals. Your Union is 42 years old and was founded by International Representatives who believed that Union employees should have the benefits of a Union contract. Today that simple philosophy has spread across the nation as FAIR now represents Union employees in 23 states.
When we say we are members of FAIR, we should be proud to have contracts that protect our wages, benefits, workplace rules, and conditions. While many times we take for granted such things as job security, just cause, and the grievance procedure that our contracts guarantee, we would be powerless to pursue injustice done to our members without these simple but powerful words. While many workers in America today are left unprotected and at the mercy of employers, we as Union members not only enjoy the power of our contracts but the use of past practices to ensure against unfair changes in our work environment.
Perhaps the most important thing we as Union members can do is to know our contract. Our contracts have strict time limits when it comes to the filing of a grievance. It also contains information concerning your wages, benefits, work place rules, and conditions. Whenever a member has a question about their contract they should contact their Shop Steward or in the event a Steward cannot be reached they should contact an Officer of FAIR for assistance. You may ask how important is our contract in protecting our members. Very simply put, FAIR is in the process of doing six arbitrations for members who we believe were discharged without just cause. In closing the Officers and Stewards of FAIR would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Steven O. Marrs
President of FAIR