The State of the American Workforce on Labor Day 2020

A message from Secretary-Treasurer Randy Korgan on Labor Day 2020:

On Labor Day 2020, it is crucial that we, as a society, reflect on the state of the American workforce. Millions are out of work and many more are underpaid or feeling the crunch of rising costs of living. Meanwhile, billionaires have increased their net worths by $637 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic so far. Is this the sign of an economy that puts working families first? No. As the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and the lack of a coordinated response by the federal government carries on, it is important to note that our collective misery is not destiny in action. There is another way. 


Workers who belong to labor unions have a seat at the table to bargain for something better. Over the past one hundred years, workers have been able to come together and set standards at work — fair wages for all, regardless of race or gender, rules and regulations for safety, retirement benefits that reward career-long dedication, and more. This is how working people themselves create career jobs that can sustain families. During this crisis, the right to collectively bargain with employers over workplace issues has been so important. Unionized workers were able to negotiate for better protections at work — something that certainly paid a role in keeping essential workers safe. 


Still, too many working families are shut out of the union difference. Why? Gallup polling conducted over the past few decades reveals that in 2019, support for labor unions was among the highest it had been in 50 years. If labor law favored the American worker over the multinational corporations that have used armies of lawyers and lobbyists to do their bidding, then we’d have union density to match this support. Unfortunately, labor law has been whittled away by corporate interests in order to make union organizing harder than it should be. At the end of the day, working people persist in their struggle for something better because unions work. Workers that were 35 years old and organized in 2000 are now retiring with dignity because union power got them there. 


Since first joining the Teamsters as a Stater Bros warehouse worker in 1990, I have worked to protect and improve standards for working families all across the Inland Empire. I am proud to have participated in a movement that has made a huge difference in the lives of tens of thousands of new union workers. Sadly, non-union warehouse workers are still paid less today than when I was hired in 1990. The fight must continue. The hard-working people of our region keep the American economy running. Workers have strength in numbers and countless examples show that by coming together we can overcome employers who wish to suppress our rights at work. 


As the ongoing crisis continues, I urge all working people across the region to remember that you are not disposable. Employers might dangle the fact that so many are out of work to keep you content, but this does not excuse the fact that you deserve better, especially when the obscenely rich continue to get richer. Things like the 8-hour workday, a ban on child labor laws, a wage floor, and more did not occur out of the goodness of the hearts of legislators. They occurred because movements grew and brought more people to the truth, “We deserve better.” This Labor Day, please keep this in mind. Labor unions are on your side.