New York, NY – Being a union member in this day and age means being a part of making history. It’s impossible to ignore the greed of the billionaire class as they try to destroy our ability to negotiate our share of the immense wealth that we the workers create. Since beginning my apprenticeship with LIUNA Local 79, I have seen the labor movement make an explosive comeback across the country. Communication workers, teachers, construction trades, steel workers, hotel workers, etc have all been fighting back fiercely in the war on the working class.
The millenial generation of trade unionists are faced with immense challenges; fighting back against Right to Work, union busting in the trades, the attack on public sector unions, as well as organizing unorganized workers. It is our labor that keeps the lights on, that grows the food we need, moves the buses and trains, turns plots of dirt into useful buildings, keeps the streets clean, etc. In a time of historic levels of wealth and inequality, the labor movement is the strongest hope for working people to fight back against the plunder being carried out by the ruling class under Trump’s presidency.
As we inherit the responsibilities of the labor movement, we have to think about how to build worker power to tip the balance in the war on our class.
After joining Local 79 last year, I have had the opportunity to participate in the working class fight in numerous ways. Rallies against Gilbane Building Company have become the symbol of the fight against anti-union contractors. This powerful company lost one of its biggest contracts at One Wall St to a pro-union company due to effective organizing and mobilization. The successful fight for Intro 1447, safety legislation for the construction workforce, showed the power of organized labor against massive opposition from the Associated Builders and Contractors. A labor and tenant coalition in the Bronx has been fighting against the gentrification that the Mayor’s rezoning plans will bring about; demanding more affordable housing and local hiring with pre-apprenticeship programs for any developments. From a rally of 50 people outside of the Hudson Yards, I saw the #CountMeIn movement grow explosively and infect workers all over NYC with enthusiastic energy in the fight to stop the spread of the so-called “open shop” model.
Throughout these struggles, younger workers are increasingly growing involved as activists and volunteers alongside the shop stewards, journey workers, organizers and active retirees. As we inherit the responsibilities of the labor movement, we have to think about how to build worker power to tip the balance in the war on our class. As of last year, the number of union members in the country stopped declining and rose slightly for the first time in decades, as well as recent polls showing that half of nonunion workers in the country would join a union if they could. The tide is turning, and we have to think many steps ahead of our enemies. Through campaigns such as the coalition between unions and Bronx tenants and community organizations fighting gentrification, or the coalition of students and unions fighting against the exploitative nonunion construction at the Union Theological Seminary — we must build the relationships that make us a grassroots force with the people behind us.
The future belongs to those who prepare for it today, and the enemies of the working class are putting in a lot of time and money to make sure they win. What we have is more powerful: solidarity.