Why Unions Matter

Written by Elaine Bernard, Executive Director Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife Program and DSA Vice-Chair, this is part of a series created by YDS on democratic socialist perspectives.

In this pamphlet, Elaine Bernard explains why anyone who cares about fairness and democracy should be excited about the labor movement. For democratic socialists, building and maintaining healthy unions is a crucial part of our commitment to economic justice. Bringing democracy into the economy, into the workplace, and into the daily life of society, is at the heart of our political vision.

Unions have always been an important part of how socialists seek to make our economic-justice principles come alive. Working people—gathered together and exploited in the capitalist workplace—are ideally positioned to fight that common exploitation cooperatively by asserting their democratic rights on the job and by advancing working class interests in the political sphere. Since trade unions are the predominant form in which working people join together to increase their own power, any democratic socialist strategy for social change must support the crucial role that organized labor
plays—and can play better—in promoting greater democracy, equality and solidarity.

As young people, we face a future of work. Those entering or about to enter the workforce will encounter the terrible imbalance of power that prevails in our economy. We have a choice: we can either accept the status quo and take our chances as lone individuals or we can fight to make the global economy more accountable to all of us. By joining or organizing unions in our own workplaces, or by working with unions and other workers’ rights advocates to promote what Bernard calls “industrial democracy,” we can reshape our world.

Members of the Young Democratic Socialists often work on our campuses and in our communities to support union efforts. Many YDS members have been active members of their unions, and have gone on to work as officials, union organizers, staff, and as rank and file activists. At a time of almost unbridled corporate domination, working to strengthen the labor movement is needed more than ever.

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published this page in Resources & Materials 2014-03-10 15:56:07 -0400