March 13, 2015

The Right to Live in a Better, Fairer, and Just America


UFCW President Perrone had the following op-ed about “right to work” published in Medium.

This week, America witnessed the 25th statewide example of irresponsibility when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed anti-family and anti-worker legislation known as “right-to-work.”

In an ideal world, the American people would have the right to expect their elected leaders to implement policies that make the lives of the hard-working men and women they represent better, fairer, and more just. After all, these amazing men and women in our factories, supermarkets, retail stores, car washes, meat packing plants, and countless other industries all across this nation work hard and sacrifice every day not just for themselves, but also for their families.

Regardless of their background, what they believe, where they are from, or whom they love, these millions of workers want what every one of us deserves — which is to have a chance for something much more for themselves and their families than a life defined by fear and the bare minimums. Unfortunately, fear and minimums, whether measured in terms of wages, benefits or rights, is what we have witnessed in America for too long.

Gov. Walker, like those before him, argues that right- to-work legislation is about creating greater wealth and opportunity for the economy by stopping unions. But we know his true motivation.

Higher wages, better benefits, equal pay for equal work, and protection from injustice and exploitation are the true rights unions fight for and Gov. Walker wants to take away these rights from men and women not just in Wisconsin, but all across America.

Instead of a better life, hard-working men and women in right-to-work states will earn lower wages in jobs with fewer benefits. Rather than a more promising future, these workers will have less job and retirement security. Without the protection of a strong union contract, women will face more struggles as they endure the painful and costly discrimination of greater unequal pay. LGBT workers will face greater fear and threats of being fired. And immigrant workers, whose fears are already fed by our broken immigration system, will face greater exploitation and mistreatment.

This is the brutal economic and societal thunder dome that America’s workers and families in right-to-work states now face and which, if he were to become president, Gov. Walker would seek to impose on the rest of this nation.

Right-to-work is not about creating wealth. Rather, it is about weakening the one institution — unions — that have done more to help all hard-working families have a better life. The International Monetary Fund recently released a report tying rising inequality to the decline in labor unions. By lowering standards and wages, right-to-work legislation will infect our economy like a virus and widen the gap between the rich and poor. It will worsen the daily struggles of all families whether they are union or not.

Rather than watching our elected leaders, regardless of party, fight for the right we all have to live in a better America, we are again witness to another politician who is determined to destroy what has helped make America the land of opportunity.

As a proud union of 1.3 million hard-working members, we believe that every man and woman who helps build, feed, and move this nation has the right to good pay, decent benefits, retirement security, justice in the workplace, and the opportunity to provide a good future for their family.

As we look ahead to 2016, the fight over what kind of America we want to live in is much more than about one radical governor from Wisconsin who wants to be president. This fight is about whether every worker has the right to a better, fairer and more just America. And, it is that vision of America which the UFCW and all of labor will fight for every single day.