“Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people

“Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to
assemble,” applies directly to organized union labor. As members of the United States, we are
guaranteed, through the First Amendment to the Constitution and more recent legislation such as
the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the ability to voice our needs to both the government
and to our employers. The manifestation of that voice is seen in labor unions.
Organized union labor grants members of the working class a strong enough voice to be
heard by their employers. Through collective bargaining and strikes, labor unions have improved
working conditions, wages, benefits, and hours. The conditions prior to organized labor were
dangerous and unsanitary. Many workers had to work for over 10 hours a day and were given
little reprieve during the day. The employers were reluctant to concede anything to the workers
that jeopardized the amount of profit they made. This meant that the amount of money that each
person earned was barely enough to survive off in many cases. In order to improve these
conditions the workers needed to have a way to be heard. By organizing into labor unions,
workers were able to negotiate improvements in all of these areas. When collective bargaining
did not work, many unions resorted to strikes. They stopped work and protested until their
employers would listen to their demands. The fear of having no profit while the strike lasts
makes employers more willing to compromise.
While fire fighters are not able to go on strike, the IAFF and the AFL-CIO still provide a
vital function to their members. These unions operate as advocates for members in cases where
they are being mistreated by employers and officers. If a fire fighter feels that they are being
harassed by an officer, they need only mention union representation and they are safe from any
discipline, harassment, or other mistreatment until someone from the union is there to witness the
event. This allows for fire fighters in particular to work without fear of being excessively
disciplined, which means that they can do their job more effectively.
With both of my parents in unions, I have benefitted throughout my whole life from their
impact. My mom is part of the Service Employees International Union, Public School
Employees of Washington, and Public School Employees of Auburn. The PSEA has almost
directly affected my life through its bargaining for health care plans. Last summer I had to have a
$60,000 surgery on my jaw to correct sleep apnea. My mom’s union used collective bargaining
to provide a health care plan that covered 100% of my surgery, while my dad’s plan would not
cover any of it. This has allowed me to be free from the majority of my sleep apnea and even
gotten me off a CPAP machine. The IAFF has also affected my life, but in more indirect ways.
The IAFF has ensured that my dad always makes enough money to keep up with the rising cost
of living. They argue for better wages through collective bargaining, which has allowed my
family to have a stable financial situation. While we are not rich, the amount of money my dad
makes is enough to live on comfortably. This is thanks to the efforts of the IAFF working the
contracts with the fire department to ensure that its members are taken care of.
My family is able to live comfortably and with the assurance that we are going to have
someone there to stand up for my parents if ever they need help. Both of my parents have the
opportunity to have great health insurance provided to them thanks to the efforts of their
respective unions. Organized union labor keeps employers honest and prevents mistreatment of
the union members.
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