Scholarship Contest Winner

August 17, 2017
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Every year we hold the annual Lou Paulson Scholarship Contest. We had nine students who wrote exceptional essays on this year’s topic:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. “

- MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech to support sanitation workers on strike for union recognition in Memphis, Apr. 3, 1968.
With last year’s election in mind and the legislation across the United States being proposed. With the quote above, explain how the term “right to work” is not new and the challenges local unions in “right to work” states face. Please include the impact it has on the organized labor movement as a whole and how the organized labor movement has improved the quality of life for the American worker.

We would like to congratulate the overall winner of this year’s contest, Rachel Grima, daughter of ECCFPD Active member Joe Grima. Rachel’s essay will be placed on the Local’s website and sent out to all the stations for everyone to read.

The remaining four scholarships were chosen by random. The winners are: Sarah Verderame, Zach Young, Amanda Wannamaker and Kayla Warren.

Good luck to the winners and we wish them the very best as they pursue their educational goals.

Rachel Grima’s essay:

Several States in the U.S. have adopted the “right to work” law beginning in the late 1940’s into the 1980’s and five more states have adopted this law in the past two years. The idea around the term “right to work” first came around in 1935 with the Wagner Act and the “right to work” law came around in 1947 with the Taft-Hartley Act. This law has been around for about 70 years and now the majority of states are “right to work”. The term “right to work” sounds as if it is there to benefit all workers but having unions is much more beneficial to its workers.

“Right to work” laws can end up crumbling unions. As workers leave union jobs, the remaining union workers are faced with larger dues in order to compensate for the large amounts of people who left the union. As more and more workers leave, the union would eventually fail. This exact event happened in Michigan. Reported by HuffPost, “Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has already revealed a drop in union density in Michigan. Last year, the estimated number of union members dropped by 48,000, despite the fact that the state added 44,000 more workers to its economy”. If more people leave, it would be likely that the union would eventually dissolve completely.

Unions provide higher wages, better health coverage, and better job security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Firefighters in non “right to work” states typically made more money than those working in “right to work” states.  That is a major benefit to workers in unions, as they help it’s members get better wages. Not only that, but it will also help them gain better health coverage. According to Economic Policy Institute, “the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance is 2.6 percentage points higher in non ‘right to work’ states”. This is also a big deal especially to firefighters who deal with many illnesses due to their job. Job security is also important to have and in a union having a job would be more stable. Not only is organized labor beneficial to its workers, but it is also beneficial to others.

Having organized labor is also beneficial to society. Stated in the quote by Martin Luther King Jr., “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work’”. Many states will use powerful slogans and propaganda to try and convince people that the “right to work” law is good or beneficial for all workers. However, it would reduce the amount of union workers and give more money to the state. As a society, we benefit from having union workers. Union workers are able to work with strict deadlines in a fast but safe pace. Unions provide trained workers that are specifically trained for a job or a task. They are able to know and understand what is safe, what is supposed to be done, and how to get something done the right way. For example, Ironworkers local 378 in Vallejo, California requires a minimum of  4-5 year apprenticeship. During this time they must undergo schooling and hands on training to make them safe and efficient at the task at hand. Once they have completed their apprenticeship, they become journeymen. Journeymen are trained to do any job classified under the title “Ironworkers”. This goes for many other unions such as pipefitters, electricians, carpenters, etc. All unions provide a job with experienced workers who know how to start and finish a job. Having fast and safe jobs can prevent a lot of mistakes and also protect the workers.

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