The Union Difference

Oregon AFL-CIO Weekly Update: The Union Difference
February 21, 2018


The Union Difference

On Monday, February 26 the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Janus V. AFSCME. The people who have pushed the case through the courts aim to further rig the rules of our economy against workers under what some have called a “bogus argument.” The case is the latest attack against unions and make no mistake, we are under attack for one simple reason: the union difference.

The union difference can be seen when comparing so-called ‘right-to-work’ states to states like Oregon, where unions are strong and build power for working people. From average salaries to paid sick days laws, a higher minimum wage and better workplace safety, the union difference means that when more working people stand together in unions, everyone does better.


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The Lessons of 1968

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike. In the latest edition of the Northwest Labor Press, Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain chronicles the events of this historic strike, emphasizing how the strike helped forge the intersection between the civil rights movement and the fight for economic justice:

“Dr. Martin Luther King is viewed today by the establishment as a hero. Streets and schools are named after him. But in 1968, Dr. King was viewed as a dangerous radical. He led non-violent activism throughout the South, pushing back against the American caste system. The struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice. He once stated: “what good was winning the right to eat at a dime-store lunch counter if you couldn’t afford a hamburger and a Coke?” The Poor People’s Campaign resulted from the development of Dr. King’s economic view: The movement must include black people, Native Americans, Latinos, and poor whites. In other words, America cannot achieve racial justice without economic justice. The Poor People’s Campaign brought Dr. King to Memphis on March 18, 1968, leading a massive protest, which uncharacteristically turned violent. Discouraged, Dr. King left Memphis planning to return for another march in support of the striking sanitation workers. Within days, Memphis received an injunction prohibiting marches. Dr. King immediately returned to Memphis to encourage the workers to continue their protest.”


Click here to read the rest of the article by President Chamberlain.


We Can Win Fair Trade

As negotiators prepare to meet again on the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump has an opportunity to shift the rules of the economy to work for everybody—if this administration finally ends corporate control over American trade policy. The AFL-CIO and our allies are sticking together for improvements to NAFTA.  This is an expression of our labor movement’s political independence: We will work with anyone who supports good jobs, worker freedom and raising pay. But the right deal for NAFTA renegotiations must:

  • Cut back or kill the special corporate court, known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, because it subsidizes outsourcing and undermines our democracy.
  • Include clear and strong labor rules to end “protection contracts” that keep pay low in Mexico and also add safeguards so workers aren’t intimidated, hurt or killed for trying to form strong, independent unions.
  • Prevent outsourcing, level the playing field and ensure that high U.S. standards are not watered down to the lowest common denominator.

America’s union movement is building a powerful coalition of allies to win a new era of trade that lifts pay and strengthens our communities. We will hold the president and all politicians accountable to that standard.


$4.92 to $4.60 per day is how much the corporate-written policies in NAFTA have pushed down the minimum wage in Mexico, adjusted for inflation and in U.S. dollars, since the deal went into effect nearly 25 years ago. Corporations that drive down wages in Mexico, drive down U.S. wages, too.

Click here to take action today for fair trade policies.