How Unions Are Helping Fix America's Problems

11/09/2017 03:51 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2017

One year into the Trump presidency and the sense that “the system is rigged” endures.

A new Washington Post poll finds that the share of Americans not proud of the country’s democratic system is higher than anytime in the last three decades.

People are dismayed by political divisions and the toxic nature of public discourse. They want government to solve real problems—wages are stagnant, public infrastructure needs direct investment, and public services continue to get squeezed by a lack of funding.

As Washington dithers, public sector unions across the country are using the contract bargaining process to solve problems in their cities, school districts, and states. A new report, which contains examples from four of the largest public sector unions, AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU, shows that workers are, in fact, bargaining with the community in mind.

Turns out, everyone is benefitting—through not only more and better jobs, but also smaller class sizes for students, better health care, and more.

Strong Unions, Stronger Communities details how union members across the country are collectively bargaining with their employers to score victories for entire communities:

Teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota, bargained in 2016 not only on pay and benefits, but also on the needs of their students—they won smaller class sizes, more support staff like nurses and counselors, and a reduction in time spent on testing and test prep.

Public service workers at University of California campuses and hospitals are currently bargaining to create hire-and-training programs for low-income people of color, as well as policies that build on past nondiscrimination provisions the union had won to protect immigrant workers.

In Oregon, the state’s largest unions came together in 2015 to collectively win higher wages, paid sick days, better retirement security, and nondiscrimination protections for most full-time workers statewide.

In 2012, public workers in Oakland bargained to pressure city leaders to renegotiate a bad deal with Goldman Sachs that was siphoning public money from education, road repair, and other public services.

Last year, teachers in Seattle bargaining to equalize recess time at wealthier, predominantly white schools and schools serving mainly students of color and low-income families.

Public sector unions and the millions of workers they represent are clearly doing their part to create fairer, healthier, and better communities.

And we should never forget that they are the teachers, firefighters, librarians, sanitation workers, and others who serve us every day. They deserve our support and praise.