What Would a Laborers' Bill of Rights Look Like?

May 2, 2024 - CLDC

If there was a Laborers' Bill of Rights, what would you want to see in it? LIUNA asked and you answered. Watch the video below to see what your fellow Laborers had to say.

The US and Canada both have a bill of rights that protects every American and every Canadian. Some rights we have as union Laborers such as water, protection from heat, or safety on the jobsite, non-union Laborers may not have. We have to fight for all of these. Some we fight for in contracts, some we fight to make law. 

Our collective bargaining agreements – the contract between us as a union and the employers, outline many of our rights and conditions at work. For example, our agreements set wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Federal, state, and local laws also define and enforce rights at work. Sometimes the law sets a minimum standard – like the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not been raised since 2009. Thirty-four states and many cities (including Illinois and Chicago) have a minimum wage above $7.25. 

Luckily as union members we earn more and we also benefit when all of the workers around us, union and non-union, earn more.

We have laws that set minimum safety standards and our union agreements make those safety standards stronger. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has standards for construction safety. As a union member, you have specialized training so that you can learn about these standards and speak up if you see something unsafe on the job.

LIUNA public employee and non-construction members also have the benefit of union agreements to secure benefits, pay, and rights like rest breaks where the laws may come up short.

Union members are more likely to have a defined benefit pension plan to fall back on in retirement rather than surviving on Social Security alone or Social Security plus investment returns.

Each and every right we have can be threatened by anti-worker, anti-Laborer groups. There are people who fight for us and people who fight against us. In some states, attacks on our rights as Laborers could make our work more dangerous or our pay and benefits less secure.

At the federal level, we always need to watch out for changes in safety and health standards, rules governing our pensions, and protecting Davis Bacon prevailing wages – to name a few things. Every year, a few representatives in Congress try to repeal or weaken prevailing wages. We need to make sure that never happens. 

In state governments, there have been a number of attacks on public sector bargaining rights in 2023 and 2024. A couple of states had proposals to enact anti-union worker so-called right-to-work.

We also had pro-worker legislation – bills to strengthen state prevailing wages, apprenticeships, and state bills to stop union busters. In Illinois we passed the Workers' Rights Amendment. The Workers’ Rights Amendment guarantees our right to collectively negotiate pay raises, benefits, and safe working conditions. This change to the state constitution ensures no anti-union governor or lawmakers in the future can take these rights away from us

It is up to us to stay informed and make sure we are electing candidates who protect our rights. Like and share the video below.