Thank You, Unions

 By: Jeffrey Freund • August 27, 2021

An undated Library of Congress photo showing a Labor Day parade in the early 20th century
An undated photo of a New York City Labor Day parade. Source: Library of Congress

Labor Day is around the corner, and what has so often for many been a day off of work, filled with family and friends, this year gives us a lot to reflect on. It’s the unofficial end of summer, and many will take the day to look back at these last few months and start thinking about next year. There is no doubt that Labor Day this year feels a little different than it has in the past, but let’s take a look back at the history of the day and, more impactfully, of organized labor, while also looking forward to getting back to baseball games and picnics once we have successfully overcome the challenges COVID-19 has brought us.

How did Labor Day come to be? Well, you can thank the labor movement for bringing it to you. Labor Day was an invention of the labor movement. The first Labor Day celebration was in New York in 1882 organized by the labor movement in New York City to honor union members and the work they and their unions did for working people everywhere. Between 1882 and 1894, when it officially became a federal holiday by an act of Congress, many states recognized it as a holiday for government employees. Over time, the holiday spread to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, and it now applies to all state and local government employees. It is generally recognized by the private sector as a holiday as well, although many employers remain open and workers must be on the job – including the essential workers providing critical services to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. At least among union-represented workers, those who have to work are typically paid a premium for working that day.

But Labor Day is not the only thing workers can thank unions for. While my agency, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, is in the business of instilling confidence in the labor movement by serving as a watchdog over union finances and elections, it does that so the labor movement can continue its role as a credible spokesperson for fairness and safety in the workplace.

Over the years, dating well before the enactment of the LMRDA (the law OLMS enforces), the labor movement has rightfully earned that reputation, and it is only fitting that we at OLMS acknowledge an undeniable fact: virtually every significant piece of modern social safety net legislation, and other laws that strive to make America a just and compassionate society, were enacted with the support – and often the leadership – of organized labor.

From the first workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation laws and the 40-hour week, to Social Security, Medicare, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Affordable Care Act, America’s labor movement has been a driving force for progress.

Many of these laws are now enforced nationwide by the Department of Labor. But before those laws were enacted to provide benefits to workers broadly, unions negotiated similar protections in their collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the workers they represented. The first workplace retirement and health plans, and limitations on the length of the workweek, were products of collective bargaining and served as models for what later became government-provided benefits many workers enjoy today. Rules to help protect people from work-related injuries and paid leave provisions also were staples of collective bargaining. Oh yes, and Labor Day became a paid holiday for union workers long before it became a holiday for others.

So if you have Labor Day off, thank your local union leaders for bringing it to you. And while you are at it, you can thank them for so much more.

Source: Thank You, Unions | U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Breaking Defense – Digital Magazine

Machinists Union Presses F-35 Jobs Campaign On Capitol Hill

FORT WORTH: In the immortal words of the inestimable Tip O’Neill, “all politics is local.” That is never more true than with major weapons programs, with US defense primes traditionally sprinkling facilities and the jobs that come with them across as many of the 50 states as possible. And it is true in spades with DoD’s most expensive current program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — which has suppliers in 45 states and Puerto Rico, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

In that tradition, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has launched a full-court lobbying campaign to shore up wavering congressional support for the long-troubled program.

“The Machinist Union will use every political and legislative legislative tool at its disposal to make sure this program is a continued success. Now when we talk about ‘make something in America,’ when we talk about ‘Build Back Better’ with this administration, the F-35 program is an example of that,” Hasan Solomon, IAM political and legislative director, said during the briefing here.

He said that while Lockheed Martin is under “a lot of pressure” to keep costs down, “as the Machinists Union, as a representative of workers, we’re not under that pressure — we apply pressure. And we’ve been applying pressure to members of Congress to make sure that this program is adequately funded. We tell them point blank: ‘You can’t say that you support veterans,’ and then you don’t support their jobs, those good jobs here at Lockheed.”

The head of the union, Robert Martinez, issued a statement provided to reporters here at Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production facility making clear how much that map can mean:

“The F-35 program supports more than 250,000 direct and indirect jobs at nearly 2,000 suppliers nationwide. Continued investment in the F-35 program, and the Machinists Union families and communities who make it all possible, is an investment in not only our national security, but our economic security as well.”

The interesting twist, however, is that as a labor union, the group arguably has more clout than any one defense company, no matter how big (or even the defense industry as a whole) with progressive Democrats — who have been pushing strongly to slash the F-35’s trillion dollar budget to fund a broad domestic agenda.

Source: Machinists Union Presses F-35 Jobs Campaign On Capitol Hill – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense – Defense industry news, analysis and commentary

Here’s why Lockheed’s F-35 program remains vital to U.S. security, Fort Worth economy


Growing up as a kid in Fort Worth, I dreamed of joining the Navy to protect our nation. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school, and after completing my tour of duty, I searched for another way to serve our country back in my hometown.

Fortunately, I was hired as an aircraft assembler on the F-16 production line at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth division. Since World War II, Fort Worth has been synonymous with providing technologically advanced airplanes to our armed services.

I felt an enormous sense of American and Texas pride for making one of the world’s most successful, combat-proven fighters in our nation’s history. While working at the Fort Worth plant, I became a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 776A.

The brotherhood and sisterhood exemplified by IAM Local 776A continue to contribute to the success of the F-16 program significantly. The Fort Worth plant’s dedicated men and women produced 3,630 aircraft before the last F-16 came off the line in 2017.

The Fort Worth production facility’s pride continues with the F-35 program. Since its inception, Machinists Union members have proudly built the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, our nation’s only fifth-generation stealth aircraft currently in production. The F-35 is a critical element of American air superiority for three U.S. military services.

The plane is also a vital weapon system for our most important allies. Once again, our city plays an outsized role in maintaining the peace.

But the F-35 is more than a fighter jet. It is a lifeline to a better life for thousands of working families in Fort Worth. The Biden administration and Congress should not entertain any conversations about cutting back on the number of F-35 aircraft for our armed services. The F-35 continues to be the only fighter in production capable of surviving in contested environments and ensuring that pilots return home safely.

The F-35 program is also an economic engine for Fort Worth, our state and the nation. This mature program supports more than 254,000 direct and indirect American jobs and about 1,800 first-tier suppliers across the country, not to mention the suppliers that support them. It generates an annual economic impact of more than $49 billion in the U.S.

The program also fuels significant economic activity across Texas. More than 110 of the program’s suppliers are located in our state, and the program is responsible for more than 55,000 direct and indirect jobs in Texas. This investment amounts to more than $10 billion in our Texas economy. The economic impact of the F-35 program continues to grow.

Yet, some short-sighted politicians refuse to see the national security and economic benefits of the F-35 program by threatening to reduce funding for the program. Our country can’t afford to lose the military advantages derived from the F-35. Production cuts threaten the economic future of our community as well as in countless other communities across the state and nation. The economic vitality of Fort Worth depends on continued support for the F-35. Let’s rally behind the program.

The F-35 program strengthens national security, enhances global partnerships, and powers economic growth. We are proud to represent workers across the country who produce, deliver, maintain and support this critical defense program. From production workers in Fort Worth to suppliers in nearly every state and maintenance depots from coast to coast, the F-35 program creates high-quality Machinists Union jobs.

Our members will continue to increase our efficiency on the assembly line and lower our nation’s and customers’ costs across the world. The Machinists Union will stand in unity with our Texas Congressional delegation, friends in Congress, and Lockheed Martin to protect our country while securing a bright economic future for Fort Worth families.

Robert Martinez Jr. is the 14th international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents nearly 600,000 active and retired members.

Source: Lockheed F-35 program vital to military, Fort Worth economy | Fort Worth Star-Telegram