July 18, 2014

Union Value: Doing good through social justice

Source: NYSUT Communications
social justice activists

Social justice has long been the foundation of unions. Think about it: Is child labor unjust? Is it unjust to have unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, where employees' health and lives are at stake, whether it be in the coalmines or the classroom?

Is it unjust for women to be subjected to workplace harassment and unequal pay?

Is it unjust to stand by while others struggle for education, food or water? To ignore those whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. That is why unions use the collective voice of members to stand up for the basic rights of workers and to help those in need. Union members respond through outreach, by raising funds for those in need and through campaigns - social media, phone calls and action alerts. They do it by volunteering. They do it through legislative action, visiting lawmakers in their home districts and at the Capitol to put a face to need. They do it by hosting rallies. They do it by caring through words and actions. Union health and safety committees and resources actively protect the health of workers.

NYSUT's mission statement pledges to "further the cause of social justice through the trade union movement."

One action NYSUT takes to honor that pledge is to help others through its Disaster Relief Fund, which uses donations to help others in challenging man-made and natural disasters.

NYSUT's Civil and Human Rights Committee is committed to representing the union in addressing social justice needs, sharing resources and through education. At their page on NYSUT.org, you can find information about civil rights, NAACP, the Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, Children's Defense Fund, National Organization for Women, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Fair Trade and more. Curriculum content on these concerns is available for educators.

NYSUT partners with the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition (http://www.labor-religion.org), where faith and labor join forces to support living wages, a sweatshop-free workforce, farm worker justice and other social justice campaigns.

NYSUT also partners with the American Labor Studies Center (http://www.labor-studies.org/), which promotes social justice through literature, theater, lesson plans and historical sites. In the ALSC's link to "A Short History of American Labor," it is revealed how social justice has been a mainstay of the labor movement:

"Through these decades, the labor movement has constantly reached out to groups in the American society striving for their share of opportunity and rewards … to minorities … to women striving for jobs and equal or comparable pay … to those who work for better schools, for the freedom of speech, press and assembly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights ... to those seeking to make our cities more livable or our rural recreation areas more available … to those seeking better health for infants and more secure status for the elderly."

Learn more about the benefits of union membership at www.nysut.org/unionvalue.