Unions Can Revive the American Dream

It’s clear to me: Unions make the American Dream come true.

By: Yemane Woldesilassie

By: Yemane Woldesilassie

As the Supreme Court hears arguments in Janus v AFSCME, an effort driven by billionaires to rig the economy even more against working people, I’m standing with my community and co-workers to say loud and clear that Americans need unions now.

We won’t be divided. Instead, we’re sticking together and using our power in numbers to win the quality, union jobs that make family life possible — a roof over our heads, food on our tables, paid time off, and health care. That’s exactly what a union job has provided for me.  

I’ve been in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105 for almost 11 years, and it has allowed me to build the life I wanted for my family—but I had to fight for it. I helped organize our union at the Denver International Airport. Now, my coworkers and I sit face-to-face with our employer to negotiate our wages and benefits.

That’s the power of a union. We have a say in our own future.

Together, we won a wage floor of $12.50 in our contract with guaranteed raises every year. We have a 401(k), sick days, health care, and paid vacation.

My wife is also a union member, and it has made a huge difference in our lives. We can spend more time with our daughters, and we were able to send our oldest daughter to college. Our youngest plans to go too. Most importantly for us, having a union means owning our home.

It’s clear to me: Unions make the American Dream come true.

Without unions, many working people are living a nightmare. They don’t have rights. They can be fired for no reason. People who don’t have a union don’t have a say in their wages and benefits like we do. They don’t have a say in their future.

We still have improvements to make in our job, but at least we have a seat at the table and a path to make those improvements. And we’re helping other airport workers who are still paid minimum wage join our union too. They see the difference a union makes and are fighting hard to join us.

Union members aren’t the only ones who benefit from union jobs. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, in states that have a larger proportion of union members, pay for all workers is boosted by about $1,558 a year. Union members earn 10 to 20 percent higher wages than those who work similar, but nonunion, jobs. The impact is even greater for women, Latinos and African American men.

We know that union jobs improve people’s lives, and no court case is going to stop us from joining together. All across the country, people like me are rising up at actions and protests. Together, we’re calling on our elected leaders to make sure all working people have the opportunity to join together in unions to improve our jobs, our families’ lives and our communities.

I want the next generation to know that to win and keep your rights, and to have security for your family, you have to unite and form a union.

I came to the United States from Ethiopia in search of a better life for my family, like many people have done before me from all over the world.

Thanks to our union, I am living the American Dream. Now I want the American Dream for everyone.

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