The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 02, 2018 1:00 am

Laboring together

Union movement works as one to keep economy's backbone upright

Roxanna Lucas Murray

There is honor in all work, no matter what form it takes.

Honor, dignity and respect for all the labor that provides us with the food on our tables, buildings in which to live and work, vehicles to transport items we both want and need, move us to the places we need and want to be, drivers to transport, pilots to fly, flight attendants to ensure smooth passage.

Labor is the backbone of a thriving economy.

A fair day's work for a fair day's wage is the standard of the labor union movement. The movement has fought so that basic rights such as safety standards, eight-hour work day, overtime pay, retirement benefits and more are available for all workers, union or nonunion. Even though in today's political climate these basic standards are being eroded by new laws, executive orders and court decisions that seem contrary to basic human rights, we continue to value and fight for labor rights.

In the service/industry economy we currently have, job openings appear to be in food service or retail sales. But there are amazing opportunities in the building trades just begging for people to come and take advantage.

While college is an option for some, it isn't the direction all want, need or are able to take. Building-trades jobs such as bricklaying, carpentry, electrical, pipe fitting and so many more are trades in which you begin to earn fair wages immediately when you begin as an apprentice. When a person learns one of these skilled trades, they never stop having the ability to make their own living.

Most importantly, these building-trades jobs are an opportunity for everyone, no matter gender, national origin, religion or sexual orientation. Diversity is a strength in today's work environment. Henry Ford is credited with saying: “When you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten.” By hiring and training different people, you get different approaches to problem-solving and different perspectives on what the problems are or what form solutions might take, different ways to handle, learn, change and grow.

Women are increasinglyin positions previously held by men. The operations they manage are thriving and growing. From the first female President of UAW Local 2209, Holli Murphy, to the CEO of a major corporation such as Mary Barra of General Motors, these women and many others are creating new opportunities for all to prosper in today's work environment.

Labor Day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our accomplishments. It's a day we can come together to celebrate what our labor has brought for all of us.

It's also an opportunity to take a deep breath before we get busy and wade back into battle. Keeping basic rights we still have and fighting to get back those we have lost are battles that take all of us, together, to win.

There is honor in all types of labor. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to be divided and then battle among ourselves over who is more important to the economy. All labor is needed.

For our economy to work well, everyone needs to be an active participant. When people have good-paying jobs, they can provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families. When they have a little extra money, they can leverage their buying power to create demand for the other things not needed, but desired. These demands create jobs for more people to fill.

Demand for products and services is the job creation that powers our economic engine and helps everyone in our country thrive. We can all rise together and, together, we can accomplish more than any one individual. This is today's labor union movement.

Roxanna Lucas Murray is the voluntary political action committee coordinator at UAW Local 2209. She has been a member of the UAW for more than 19 years and is active in the Greater Fort Wayne community.

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