The folks who brought you the 40-hour workweek…

I was pleased to see Larry Kleinman’s Op-Ed in the Statesman Journal this weekend, about how Oregon’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, and he explains the role of Oregon’s unions in keeping us ahead of the feds. But, as Larry explains, the point here is that the unions don’t just wind up creating benefits for their own members:

Few, if any workers under union contracts in Oregon are paid the minimum wage. Organized labor’s role in raising the minimum wage demonstrates a commitment to boosting standards for all workers, not just union members. Like the bumper sticker says: “The weekend: brought to you by the labor movement.”

Yet another reason to support the Employee Free Choice Act — the right of workers to organize is a plus for workers even in workplaces that don’t choose to unionize. The more organized workers are, the better off all workers are.

I’ve been thinking about unions since re-reading Fast Food Nation last month (after seeing Food Inc), where Eric Schlosser talks in detail about the effects of union-busting on the food industry: specifically fast food workers and the slaughterhouse workers. I had to put down the book a few times as he talked about the deaths of workers in slaugherhouses and the changes to the meatpacking industry as it has switched to a mostly non-union workforce since the 1980s.

On so many levels, it’s true: workers need unions, and every worker, whether or not they want to be in a union, can support the right to organize for all workers. Take a minute to sign onto the “Million Member” campaign to show Congress that Americans support union choices for all workers.

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