“How can we get young workers involved?”
That’s the question on everyone’s lips, with union density at near-record lows. Many unions have begun holding summits for young members or forming local committees, which is great.
But too often they’re missing a step that’s more essential: don’t sell young workers out.
When you settle a two-tier contract that puts new hires on a lower wage scale or trades away their pension, it sends a message: “This union is for us, not for you.”
Everyone who gets hired these days at UPS or on a postal delivery route can see they’re on a slow track to nowhere. No matter how many years they put in, they’ll never get where their co-workers are. That’s a mark against the union from Day One.
Unless these concessions are reversed they will eat away at unions, alienating incoming workers until they’re the only ones left. That’s obvious, right? Yet so many national union leaders seem to have missed the memo.
So it’s heartening to see union members who get it—and who put themselves on the line for future co-workers they haven’t even met yet.
Next Gen Defense
That’s the reason gas workers at National Grid in Massachusetts have endured a lockout for five months and counting. The company’s offer “for the current people in the local was reasonable,” said Steelworkers Local 12003 President Joe Kirylo.
But National Grid wants to eliminate the pension for new hires, and reduce their vacation and sick time. “The people in this local chose to defend the next generation,” Kirylo said.
I heard the same from Kaiser health care workers who went to the brink of a strike to block a two-tier pension. “Members were very adamant—you just don’t do that,” said local president Adrienne Enghouse. “It would be the demise of our union.”
Other workers have rolled back two-tier even after it was implemented.