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Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) march during a protest in support of a new contract for apartment building workers in New York City, April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) march during a protest in support of a new contract for apartment building workers in New York City, April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar  

Five Things Labor Unions Do To Celebrate Labor Day

For many Americans, Labor Day means one last long weekend to end the summer. But the U.S. Department of Labor describes the holiday as “a creation of the labor movement,” meaning labor unions.

So how would organized labor celebrate?

1. Make union organizing a civil right. Democrats Georgia Rep. John Lewis and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison have introduced a bill that would that would do just that. The congressmen argue that the current National Labor Relations Board process is too slow. Dealing with labor issues as expeditiously as discrimination is one way they would resolve that.

Lewis and Ellison propose letting anyone who claims they are fired because of union advocacy sue under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This would make them eligible not only for back pay and reinstatement to their jobs, as under the current process, but also the kinds of compensatory and punitive damages allowed under the civil rights laws.

Critics charge that this would open the door to abusive litigation by people who wrongly claim they were fired because their bosses were anti-union, which would damage businesses.

2. Advocate that taxpayers cover surgery and other “transition-related” treatment for transgender public employees. Right before Labor Day weekend, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees celebrated gains made this summer in health coverage for transgender state workers in Washington. Prior to a July vote, the union complained “nearly all insurance plans in Washington state exclude coverage for transition-related medical treatment, even when that same treatment.”

Thanks to unions like AFSCME, things like hormone treatments will be covered early next year, followed by surgeries next July.

3. Unionize home health workers in Minnesota. After a federal court declined to stop unionization of homecare workers in the state, of these workers were placed under the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota. Organized labor praised this move as the largest union organizing election in state history. Critics countered that few people voted and that is amounts to forced unionization.

National Right to Work Foundation plans to reopen their case against this practice.

4. Join the Labor Department book club. The House Oversight Committee has requested information on what wasteful Labor Department spending, including $600,000 on elevator posters, $25,000 joining public relations contests and $100,000 to promote a book club. The Department of Labor oversees labor unions and workplaces, but is generally viewed as having a friendly relationship with organized labor.

5. Fight right-to-work laws. Labor unions have been active in opposing right-to-work legislation in states like Michigan and have publicly worried that Republicans could push to make New Mexico a right-to-work state.

In a pre-Labor Day Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans approve of unions in general. But they also support the right of workers to choose if they want to be in a union.

When asked if they would support right-to-work legislation, 71 percent said they do. When broken into parties, 65 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans said they would support such a law.

Gallup polled a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the United States.

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