With the recent election of labor-friendly President-elect Joe Biden, the labor community has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Mechanical Insulators Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT) Executive Director Pete Ielmini joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for unions in the workplace and the accomplishments of the labor movement over the past 150 years.
COVID-19 shined light on the need for labor unions
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to infiltrate many industries and has now affected everyone in the United States, Ielmini said the continued need for unions has been highlighted.
He said existing unions have been great about protecting their members throughout the pandemic. They have worked hard to educate them about how to protect themselves in the workplace as well as distribute appropriate personal protective equipment.
The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers has been great about educating their members beyond what is available to them through traditional media.
Progress made by the North American Labor Movement
Ielmini then said the industrial revolution came with great American prosperity, but horrible conditions and minimal rights of the workers powering it. Workers were forced to labor long hours with no protections. Additionally, many children were put to work as there were no child labor laws forbidding it.
In the construction industry, death was common in this era. He said construction workers would often retire from their trade at 35 because of the toll it took on their bodies. Labor unions were the driving force behind making the necessary changes to stop this. With increased safety standards and labor laws, came longevity for workers and a safer workplace.
Ielmini used the end of the segment to put forth what in his opinion are the 15 most important accomplishments of the labor movement.
This list included accomplishments such as the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, establishment of registered apprenticeship programs and more.