Bill Samuel, Government Affairs Director of the AFL-CIO spoke with America’s Work Force Radio Podcast on May 28 to discuss the union difference in the workplace.
Samuel first spoke about the HEROES Act and how it was meant to help local and state governments, businesses, essential workers and more during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that the HEROES Act was to make sure businesses and the government could continue to run payroll to keep providing services. Samuel then talked about how post-pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will have to “beef up” safety standards to ensure workers are protected and can do their jobs safely. This brought him to the topic of the union difference in the workplace. Samuel said a union workplace ensures safety standards are met and allows workers to speak up if they do not feel safe. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act makes it so workers have a right to unionize and bargain for contracts, including wages and benefits. Lastly, he spoke about personal protective equipment and how some industries are still facing a shortage even though the pandemic has lasted three months now.
Bob Swanson, retired paint contractor from the Finishing Contractors Association spoke about mental health in the building trades. Swanson, whose son died by suicide, discussed how mental illness can affect anyone; it does not discriminate and it does not care how tough you think you are. He said construction workers are thought to be big, strong, tough men who can’t be affected by a mental illness because it makes them seem weak. Swanson wants to end the stigma of mental illness, and how workers need to speak about their mental state more often so they can find ways to treat it. He also explained that we need to stop defining people as the disease they have, and rather they are living with it. Instead of saying someone is depressed, Swanson suggested saying they are living with depression. Swanson stressed that if a person has a mental illness, they need to actively work on their treatment so they can get better.