Fetterman: We can thank the labor movement for many of the rights American workers enjoy



This long Labor Day Weekend was brought to you by, you guessed it, the labor movement. So were the two-day weekend, the eight-hour workday, and nearly every other workplace protection that we take for granted.


But these rights were not given, they were won by the blood and sweat of workers who recognized their shared power. And these rights are not universal, as millions of gig workers employed by corporations like Uber and Lyft are deprived of rights as basic as the minimum wage, insurance benefits, or the ability to unionize, And millions of other care workers, service workers, and other low-wage workers do not receive benefits or time off.


I live across the street from a Steelworkers union hall in Braddock, Pa., and I’ve had the privilege of traveling across this commonwealth to speak with working people and union members who show the importance of a strong labor movement. I know firsthand the power of a strong union. When I was born to two very young parents, my father worked as a union grocery worker with the UFCW in Reading, Pa., stocking shelves at the Shop-Rite. The union helped him work his way through college.


But for decades union membership has faltered. And as a result, working people are losing out, while corporations are making record profits on workers’ backs.


While corporate bosses and shareholders rake in millions of dollars, working people—the people who put their bodies and lives on the line during the pandemic and who are putting in work on factory floors— are getting sold out, squeezed, and ripped off. And let’s face it, our leaders in Washington are to blame.


For too long, out-of-touch politicians in Washington have sold out the people on factory floors to benefit their friends in corporate boardrooms. They’ve passed bad trade deals that have sent thousands of good-paying union jobs overseas. They’ve failed to increase the minimum wage. And they’ve turned a blind eye as CEOs continue to rip off working people, fight tooth and nail to roll back the rights of workers, and blunt the power of unions.


It’s Washington’s fault that union membership has been cut in half since 1993, allowing corporations like Amazon to take their anti-worker, union-busting strategies to new extremes. And, it’s Washington’s fault that the minimum wage has remained at $7.25 for the last 13 years – the longest amount of time without an increase since 1938.


But all across America, workers are fighting back, banding together to stand up for their rights. And they’re winning.


Amazon workers unionized their first warehouse in New York City. Baristas at Starbucks are organizing and winning union elections all over the country, including many here in Pennsylvania. And a group of BCTGM workers in Lancaster united to defeat a two-tier pay scale; and in the process, they won themselves a raise.


But while workers across the country walk the picket line and organize their workplaces, they need to know that our leaders in Washington have their backs and are taking concrete actions to support them. It’s time that they stand up for the people who built this country and who keep it running.


That’s how I’ve always led here in Pennsylvania — because I’ve never forgotten the stability my father’s union was able to provide our family. Over the past year alone, I have been on countless picket lines across Pennsylvania — from the BCTGM workers on strike in Lancaster, to the Ironworkers on strike in Erie, and everywhere in between. And I’ve used my campaign’s email fundraising list to raise directly for striking unions’ strike funds — one of the only politicians ever to do so.


I don’t say this for a pat on the back, but to demonstrate how strong my support for the workers of Pennsylvania really is. When workers ask me to be there, I’ll always show up and have their backs.


That’s the difference between my multi-millionaire opponent Dr. Oz and me. While I stand with working people, he stands with his filthy rich friends, who happen to run the companies ripping off working people. He doesn’t think that our embarrassingly low minimum wage needs to be increased. And he certainly wouldn’t want to dent the bonuses of his CEO pals and shareholder buddies.


The reality is that he’s personally invested in many of these companies. When his CEO pals make more money, he makes more money. It’s that simple.


The U.S. Senate certainly doesn’t need another advocate for CEOs and shareholders. What the Senate needs is more people who will be ruthless in their fight for workers.


To truly support working people, our leaders in Washington must pass the PRO Act. And we must meet the reality of an increased cost of living by raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.


The union way of life is sacred. Workers built this country and they keep it running every single day. It’s past time Washington gets to work. I’ll make sure they do when I show up in January.