Unions matter because I love my father

Winner name: 

Courtney Belyea

Award date: 

July, 2016

Contest: 

Unions matter because I love my father. What, you might say? What does your personal love for your father have to do with unions? My dad is a non-union construction labourer. He has worked other labour jobs including highway construction, fixing bridges, operating a snow plow, chainsaw operation (his first job ever when he was a teen) and landscaping.

The long stint of labour jobs happened after he started getting bad arthritis pain in his fingers from the cold rooms meat must be cut in. So he left meat-cutting and while he is happier with this type of work, it cannot be said to be particularly safe, sustainable to the worker and respected as much as it should be. None of my dad's labour jobs have had unions! Even though they were all the kinds of jobs one traditionally assumes a likelihood of unionization. How could think of construction work and not think of the unions?

Part of the problem is that many of his employers were small businesses and despite popular myth, unions do not harm businesses of any size. There is actually evidence unions benefit both the economy and society at large. This makes the backlash rather curious but it comes down to employers being unwilling to invest in things that do not have a fast return. Investment in worker safety is one of the best investments to make in long term outcomes of workers and their productivity. 

More than one time my dad has had a brush with death at work. When he was working the highways, an aggressive driver sped through the work zone even though it was off limits. My dad had to crawl fast on his hands and knees to avoid being run over. When he worked in landscaping, he and his co-worker survived their truck getting hit by a train unscathed.

Anyone who values human life should support unions. I don't mean to be divisive by making such a statement, but its true. There are many union benefits but worker safety is the one closest to my heart and personal to me.

NUPGE component: