‘We have it in our power to make the world new again.” These words, written in 1776 by the patriot Thomas Paine, inspired the men and women of the American colonies to launch a new nation, changing the path of human history.
As he wrote these words in his fiery pamphlet titled Common Sense, Paine envisioned a country based on equality and mutual respect, where there would be no nobilities and all would be accountable to the same laws and rules.
America’s story since then has been, for the most part, about the epic, often blood-drenched struggle to achieve this Founder’s vision of equality and justice. We’ve made some good progress over the years, but every step was met by stubborn resistance from those who enjoyed the privileges of the status quo.
It is unfortunate how the nobility of the old monarchal system has been replaced by a new nobility consisting of a small number of super-wealthy families who pass their riches down from generation to generation.
One of these families is the Waltons, who are the main beneficiaries of the Walmart retail empire. This family controls a massive fortune equivalent to the wealth of 40 percent of the American population, and it is only getting richer through its ongoing exploitation of Walmart’s poorly compensated work force.
How is this different from the nobility Thomas Paine railed against in 1776? The more we look at the problem, we see more similarities than differences.
In our contemporary scene, there is only one force fighting for the “commoners” — those who aren’t born with the privileges of vast wealth, but do the real work of feeding, healing and clothing our nation.
This force for justice and fairness is the American Labor Movement. Through the Unions, millions of working Americans have banded together over the decades to win a better share of the wealth they have created at the places where they work.
Thanks to the Unions, America was able to create the largest middle class in world history. Along the way, they led the charge for regular days off, vacations and safety standards in the workplace.
As Union members, we are the stalwart fighters for the American dream of a fair economy working for all of us, not just a tiny elite segment of the population.
This goal isn’t just our hope — it’s our responsibility. In this way we honor the contributions of our predecessors and leave behind a better world for future generations. It may seem a daunting task, but we already know the key to success: growing our numbers.
Bigger Union, stronger voice
The bigger and stronger we are as a Union, the more influence we will have on the national stage. And we’ll use this influence to raise the standards for all working people.
How do we grow our Union? We do it through a process called “organizing.”
In the Labor Movement, we have two kinds of organizing: internal and external. Both are critically important.
Internal organizing is about cultivating Solidarity among the current membership. This is crucial to negotiating strong contracts with the employers. It involves encouraging our members to stand strong together and participate as active volunteers.
It starts with simple steps like showing our support for UFCW 8 at work and sharing our enthusiasm with our co-workers and management. In this way, the company will appreciate how its work force will refuse to be intimidated by unreasonable demands when bargaining time comes around.
External organizing involves helping non-Union workers understand how joining a Union will improve their lives through better wages, benefits and working conditions.
When more workers in more industries join our Union, we all get stronger, increasing our market share and gaining clout at the bargaining table.
UFCW 8-Golden State provides many opportunities for involvement in external organizing campaigns such as the California Labor Federation’s “All in to Win” coalition. You can also assist Walmart workers in their struggle for fair treatment by helping their OUR Walmart campaign. See the box at left for a list of some volunteering opportunities.
Through your active involvement in UFCW 8’s organizing efforts internal and external you’ll be doing your part to move America closer to the fair and just society our Founders envisioned in 1776.
Thank you for stepping forward to make our world new again. Thank you for proving, again and again ...