by Mike Powers, President SEIU Local 503
Next week, workers at The Rawlin – a memory care facility owned by Onelife investments – will go on strike to save their residents’ lives and demand recognition for their union. SEIU 503 is proud to support them with the full power of our union because their actions are part of our long-term strategy to win better wages and benefits for all workers, including members of our union. This connection isn’t always obvious, so here’s my explanation for why The Rawlin matters to every SEIU member.
Over the last 5 years, union members across the country have faced unprecedented attacks, part of a decades-long campaign to strip working people of our power and transfer more of our nation’s wealth into the hands of the rich and powerful. In many ways, we’re losing this fight. Even though SEIU 503 has been successful over the last few years, the power of unions nationally has been greatly diminished. As a result, more wealth has become concentrated at the very top, benefits have worsened, and work-life balance has shrunk. This has been particularly obvious during COVID. Billionaires in the U.S. grew their net worth by a collective $931 billion during the last year, while the rest of us have struggled.
There is no single fix to this problem, but union power is one way to build an economy that works for everyone, everywhere. When people are members of unions they have higher wages, better benefits, and better experience on the job. The reverse is also true, when wages and benefits are poor across the economy, union members get attacked for having good contracts. The CEOs and anti-worker groups are great at dividing us like this.
To continue raising standards for SEIU 503 members we must build our power beyond the current scope of our Union. If we want to protect our benefits, we can’t let the U.S. be the worst on worker benefits among wealthy nations or else we’ll be attacked for what we have. If we want to raise our wages, we can’t allow real wage growth to remain flat across the economy or else we will always be compared to a standard that’s too low.
We must shift the narrative by focusing on our shared struggles with working people in every part of the economy, and we must be part of a larger effort to build an economy that works for everyone. Only then, can we succeed on our internal priorities.
Sometimes I forget the dynamics that exist at non-union workplaces. At The Rawlin, long-time workers earn less money than new employees. The facility can’t hire anyone at their old wage rates, so they advertise jobs at higher rates. But they refuse to raise wages for long-time employees. Without a union, those employees have no choice but to accept this.
That’s why I’m so excited that Rawlin workers are taking a stand. These brave workers, with the full support of our union, are striking to save the lives of their residents. They are demanding recognition of their union and immediate action to make The Rawlin safe and improve the wages and training for workers. If you haven’t seen their stories, please take a moment to watch them today.
Polls show increasing public support for unions. Organizing efforts at Amazon, Google, Uber and Lyft, as well as strikes from teachers, fast food workers, and others show a desire for unions. We must force politicians, corporations, and the wealthiest to listen and give workers power. As SEIU 503 members we can play a major role in this movement by supporting Rawlin workers, and people across the state who are fighting to win back their power.
Please join me today in sending a message to The Rawlin management, and tell them to recognize their workers union.