On this Labor Day, I’m hopeful that people take just a few minutes to reflect on the importance and contributions of the organizations, the labor unions, that have worked for so long to protect the rights and dignity of working men and women. 

Unions have quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, fought for the rights of those who otherwise would have no voice. Unions are responsible for winning fair wages and health benefits for millions of workers, safety measures, vacations, time off, overtime when workers are asked to work beyond their typical workday or work week, sick leave, and pensions that reward years of hard work.

Often unions are in the forefront of fighting for the rights of minorities, for equal treatment in the workplace.

Union won wages and benefits often set the standard for industries, where union and non-union employers are competing for the best workers … workers, by the way, that are simply the backbone of any successful business.

Those that would demonize unions are the very ones that have supported tax advantages for huge corporations that pay no federal taxes, that fight against raising the minimum wage, that support legislation that would deny many the right to vote and women the right to choose.

Many states have a minimum wage of less than $10 an hour, and more than 20 have either no state minimum wage or adopt the federal minimum wage of $7.25, like Texas, which has distinguished itself by its anti-abortion and anti-voter legislation

I spent many years as part of the labor movement, and I’m proud of the things we were able to accomplish, both in the workplace and in efforts to promote pro-worker legislation.

Today is a good day to remember what workers have gained through the efforts of labor unions, and to remember the sacrifices that many labor leaders made in their fight to improve conditions for working men and women.

It’s also a day to reflect on what the future might be like if not for labor unions to lead the fight against those politicians that have little regard for the working men and women, the backbone of this thing we call a democracy.

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.